New programme to advance diversity and inclusion in clinical trials

The North West London Clinical Trials Alliance (NWL CTA), which Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is a part of, is one of the first research sites to join the new Advancing Inclusive Research Site Alliance.

Launched by Roche UK, the Advancing Inclusive Research Site Alliance aims to advance the diversity and inclusion of underserved patients throughout the company’s clinical trial programme, test recruitment and retention approaches, and establish best practices that can be used across the industry to help achieve health equity for all.

Dr Suki Balendra, director of the North West London Clinical Trials Alliance and director of strategic partnerships for Paddington Life Sciences, said: “North west London covers a population of 2.6 million people, half of whom come from a diverse background. We're passionate in our belief that everyone has the right to receive the same level of healthcare and the opportunity to access and participate in research regardless of background.

“The lack of diversity in trials is a real obstacle to understanding the safety and efficacy of novel therapies across different populations which is vital to advancing equity. Joining the Advancing Inclusive Research Site Alliance will promote partnership between the NHS, research and industry and present a tremendous opportunity to cultivate and sustain clinical trial diversity.”

In addition to NWL CTA, the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network West Midlands is also signed up to Roche UK’s Advancing Inclusive Research Site Alliance.

The Advancing Inclusive Research Site Alliance plans to expand to more research centres in the near future. Each centre joining the Alliance will focus on enabling the participation of historically underrepresented patient groups in clinical trials, working collaboratively to share key learnings and exploring innovative ways of increasing clinical trial access for every patient who might benefit. The ultimate goal is to build a robust and sustainable clinical research ecosystem that actively includes diverse patient groups.

Richard Erwin, general manager, Roche Products Ltd, added, “Representation of real-world patient populations is critical to improve clinical outcomes and ensure health equity for all patients. The recruitment of people from minority ethnic groups is a pressing concern for researchers and the research community. We recognise we cannot drive the change alone and through the Advancing Inclusive Research Site Alliance we’re partnering with highly experienced and trusted research centers located in areas with significant patient diversity. Programmes such as this one are vital in helping us enhance the future designs of our clinical trials and ensure greater inclusion and better access to all of our clinical trials.”

Advancing Inclusive Research is vital as not all segments of the population have benefited from advances in science and medicine. There are well characterised disparities in clinical and genomic research, distinct populations have been understudied in science, underrepresented in research, and underserved by medicine while, enough data representative of real world patient populations is lacking preventing effective clinical outcomes for all patients.

More about the North West London Clinical Trials Alliance

The North West London Clinical Trials Alliance, which launched in 2021, is a collaboration between clinical trial teams in north west London. In response to the pandemic, clinical research teams across north west London joined together to respond collaboratively to the research need. The teams co-ordinated across the different facilities, meaning that research studies could be shared out more effectively and appropriately, resulting in evidence that could inform national guidelines and policy more quickly. 

The approach worked so well in response to the pandemic, that teams from across the clinical research networks and the universities and NHS institutions which host the clinical research facilities decided to formalise the arrangement to build on the success of the collaboration and improve access to clinical trial resources for future research. 

The alliance is dedicated to both industry funded (e.g. pharmaceutical companies) and publicly funded research trials (e.g. university-led or government funded research) and has an excellent record of recruitment, meaning evidence can be strengthened by larger participant samples.