The purpose of the London researcher? “Higher, sooner, cheaper” medical research


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A London researcher has received millions of dollars in federal research funding to improve Canada’s clinical trials process, a behind-the-scenes work that is helping bring new treatments to patients.

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Amit Garg, associate dean at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentry, is part of a panel of experts awarded $39 million by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to help improve the clinical trials landscape in Canada refine.

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“We definitely want a stronger study ecosystem in Canada because we have a number of health issues that we want better information about,” Garg, who is also a kidney specialist at the London Health Sciences Center and a scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute, said on Thursday.

“There are a number of obstacles that make starting these trials more difficult than it needs to be, and we hope to be able to address them,” he said.

Garg also received $3.4 million from CIHR, Canada’s federal funder of health research, Developed a program to train new medical researchers to conduct clinical trials.

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Clinical studies are the be-all and end-all of medical innovation. New discoveries—whether devices, drugs, or treatment strategies—must undergo thorough safety and efficacy testing before they can be brought to market.

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Trials need to be rigorous, but if the launch is unnecessarily complicated or fraught with obstacles, it can stifle innovation and deny patients new therapies, Garg said.

“All studies must be conducted very carefully, taking into account patient safety,” he said. “But there are definitely administrative options. . . to do things more efficiently.”

How Canadian clinical trials pan out can vary widely, Garg said.

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For example, if London researchers had a device ready for clinical trials and wanted to test it at multiple academic hospitals, they would have to undergo a separate ethics approval process at each site, he said.

“Sometimes ethics committees give different recommendations. It is not possible to reconcile them. . . ‘ Garg said. “Multicenter studies can have 10 or 100 sites and . . . (it) can take years just to get the ethics approvals.”

How clinical trial contracts and liability work can also vary between sites, he added.

Because Canada doesn’t have a solid nationwide basis for starting clinical trials, it risks losing out on medical innovation, Garg said.

Many COVID-19 vaccine and treatment trials have taken place in other countries that have more robust procedures, he noted.

He hopes that unifying and streamlining clinical trial pathways in Canada will attract more trials, help patients by exposing them to cutting-edge treatments, and boost investment and job creation, Garg said.

“We want to make sure Canada is in the best possible position to create solutions,” he said. “We have several dimensions. . . We’re trying to address how trials can be done better, faster, cheaper and with greater impact.”

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