Clinical Trials: Crying Out for Collaborative Innovation

August 14, 2017

Clinical trials, the single largest contributor to the time and cost of medical research, are important, expensive, complicated, and opaque. Making them more efficient and effective is of central concern to all those invested in improving the R&D ecosystem, from investigators to product developers to regulators and, most importantly, to patients. We can’t just improve clinical trials; we need a paradigm shift. One way to find innovation is through new and powerful collaborations.

The importance

Clinical trials are essential to determine if a new medical product is safe and effective, and to provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the data it needs to approve a product for marketing in the United States. Without these studies, there would be no way to know if a drug or device is truly able to treat a disease and that the benefits of using the product outweigh any harms caused by side effects.

The challenge


According to one prominent analysis, clinical development of a new drug accounts for 63 percent of the time from first discovery to regulatory approval. In addition, the same analysis found that average out-of-pocket clinical development costs reached $930 million, more than twice the $430 million cost of pre-clinical development.


The reason trials are so expensive and time consuming is that human biology – and human disease – is exceedingly complex. It is almost impossible to predict whether a new drug or device that may have worked perfectly in a lab setting or in an animal model will behave as expected in humans. Additionally, the genetic and other diversity of humans means that, ideally, a large, diverse population of people needs to be involved in a single trial so that we can confirm who will, and will not, benefit from the product.


Many trials are not able to recruit enough participants to be effective. Surveys have found that as few as 3 percent of adult cancer patients participate in clinical trials. While most trials ultimately enroll enough participants, it can take twice as long as estimated, and as many as 48 percent of the individual sites in a trial under-enroll study volunteersOne analysis found that 19 percent of studies are terminated or closed early due to insufficient enrollment – a waste of resources and patients’ time, and a tragedy in terms of scientific questions left unanswered.


Clinical trials are extremely opaque – both to researchers and to patients. While there is a public database of ongoing trials at, a 2015 investigation found significant under-reporting of trials by companies and universities, resulting in a lack of shared knowledge of clinical research being done and its outcomes, as well as the risk of duplication of effort. The U.S. government has issued stronger regulations, and in response to provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is working to improve and take other actions to improve the usability, accuracy, and completeness of the database.

(Click HERE to read the full article from FasterCures)