HomeArticlesHealthGold Coast accelerates as a clinical trial hub during COVID-19 times

Gold Coast accelerates as a clinical trial hub during COVID-19 times

Kathy Kruger for Gold Coast Health & Knowledge Precinct | November 2020

Business at Griffith University’s Clinical Trial Unit has not only continued but thrived in the midst of a pandemic, with the site being first globally to recruit patients for a multi-national rheumatology trial and screening the first patient in Australia for another multi-national trial.

The Gold Coast and Queensland have benefited from the state’s current low COVID-risk status, to accelerate capability that had been rapidly building, pre-pandemic.

A 2019 study, commissioned by the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct, City of Gold Coast, Regional Development Australia (RDA) Gold Coast and the Queensland Government Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation, found the Gold Coast was Australia’s largest regional clinical trial location, with 126 trials contributing almost $12 million per annum to the city’s economy, and significant growth anticipated over the coming decade.

Director of the Griffith University Clinical Trial Unit, Professor Evelin Tiralongo, said growth could be even stronger than earlier projections of the local sector being worth $33 million by 2029, with further demand likely to be caused by the pandemic.

“Providing high-quality clinical trial services to global and national sponsors, as well as supporting researcher-led trials, is core business for us, and being able to operate in a COVID-safe way, in an environment with so far low levels of coronavirus in the community in Australia, Queensland, and the Gold Coast in particular, is an advantage,“ Professor Tiralongo said.

“After some initial disruptions to active trials, we worked very quickly on setting up a COVID-19 safe plan to enable us to continue providing essential services for existing clinical trials and subsequently take on new business, with great support from the University, our External Advisory Committee and the clinicians and other health professionals we work with.”

With intense focus on multiple COVID-19 trials worldwide, researchers, including Griffith’s Professor Michael Good AO, Principal Research Leader at the Institute for Glycomics and a member of the Australian Government’s National COVID-19 Health and Research Advisory Committee, continue to press the need for vital research and trials into other important conditions to continue, or risk significant health consequences.

Many such important trials are currently being conducted at Griffith’s Clinical Trial Unit in areas such as rheumatology, neurology, endocrinology, renal disease, gastrointestinal disorders and infectious diseases with the unit looking to expand into dermatology and cardiology.

Dr Claire Williams, the Clinical Trial Unit’s Business and Operations Manager, has welcomed the opportunity to take part in these studies and expand the CTU’s business.

“Despite everyone’s attention being currently focussed on COVID-19, it’s still vitally important that we continue to develop and improve vaccines and treatments for other chronic and serious diseases. As a University Core Research Facility, it is crucial to continue to support Griffith researcher-led trials and take on pharma trials so that we can enhance clinical research and knowledge and offer possible new therapy options to the Gold Coast community,” said Dr Williams.

“We are undertaking trials which focus on outpatients and greatly value the continuous and growing collaboration with clinicians from General Practice, Specialised Private Practice, the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service and other providers. Being in the same building as the Griffith’s Health Clinics makes it easy to collaborate with other Allied Health Professionals.”

Clinicians who would like to collaborate on current and planned trials at Griffith’s CTU should contact CTU management for further information CTUManagement@griffith.edu.au and volunteers can register their interest via the CTU’s website.

***This article was originally published on Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct.

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