Kate Shaw, Innovative Trials’ Founder/CEO, looks back at this 2021
It’s been a busy year for us here at Innovative Trials. From adapting to a changing clinical trial landscape due to COVID-19 to becoming a multi-award-winning company and raising money for vital research into dementia, there has rarely been a dull moment. As we prepare for the holiday season and the end of the year, our Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Kate Shaw, looks back at her highlights including some key achievements of 2021.
I’m so proud of how each and every person at Innovative Trials has adapted to the changing clinical trial landscape, not just this year but for the last couple of years. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to almost all clinical trials and a whole strand of our work disappeared almost overnight. But thanks to our resilient and talented team, we were able to pivot quickly to continue supporting our clients through such a challenging time. Since then, and throughout 2021, we’ve continued to flex our priorities and how we work to keep on providing the best service.
Adapting to the impact of COVID-19
The pandemic closed laboratories and clinical trial sites last year with many research staff – clinicians and nurses – returning to the front-line of healthcare to help care for the seriously ill. I’m so grateful to the NHS and all our healthcare professionals for everything they have done and continue to do, but it inevitably meant that lots of clinical trials were temporarily stopped.
For us, this meant revisiting our business priorities. We knew these trials would restart eventually and that there would be real urgency in getting them underway, so we switched our focus almost entirely to patient education and creating patient materials.
This year, as trials started to open up again, it hasn’t been as easy as just picking up from where we left off or returning to ‘old’ working practices. There’s a lot of pressure now on patient recruitment, but COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, a big impact on patients and research staff. Patients, for example, may think twice about joining a clinical trial because they don’t want to go into hospital or do the site visits that it might entail. For some, COVID-19 has made them wary of doing things like this, so we, as an industry, need to look at how we encourage patients to consider participating in clinical trials again.
We’ve worked with sites this year to understand what their challenges have been in the past and what their challenges are now in order to support effective patient recruitment. It has meant a lot of time strategizing with sites to work out how they are going to proceed with trials in a post-COVID-19 era. It’s been quite a shift.
A multi-award-winning service
One of my particular highlights for 2021 is becoming a multi-award-winning company! It’s a tribute to the hard work of the whole team.
We were presented with our Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade in June. The Lord-Lieutenant for Hertfordshire came for the official presentation and he was amazing. I accompanied him around the office and he spoke to lots of people about the work they do. It was great to have someone with such stature in the office. I particularly enjoyed seeing our staff talking to him about their work; they were so obviously proud of what they do and it made me proud to be part of this company.
In September, when we were announced as the Best Global Patient Recruitment Company for 2021 by Global Health & Pharma, that came as a total surprise. It’s great to be recognised as we work in a competitive market and shows that our work provides real value.
Of course, neither of these awards would have been possible without our passionate and driven workforce. Our staff are the key to our success. Everyone believes in what they do and we know our clients value and trust our people. It’s all about hard work. Hard work and honesty in order to deliver the best results for our clients, sponsors and ultimately, patients.
Pushing for greater patient diversity in clinical trials
Helping to make sure trials include a diverse range of eligible patients is important to us. In 2020, we organised a roundtable discussion about whether diverse representation in clinical trials should be made mandatory and I’m pleased that we continued this work throughout 2021.
This year, our Road to Equality partnership with COUCH Health and Egality Health brought together representatives from the pharmaceutical sector, academics and patient representatives to discuss the issue and look at what still needs to be done. I hope we can carry on this important piece of work to help the industry overcome the challenges associated with achieving greater diversity. Our collective aim is that all health research, including clinical trials, will become more inclusive and represent the full patient population.
Raising money for good causes
Among all of the hard work we’ve also found time to have fun and raise money for a good cause too. It’s important to me that Innovative Trials has a charity partner that we raise money for each year and for 2021, our staff chose Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease and there aren’t many treatments available, so the more research that can be done, the better. Hopefully our fundraising can contribute towards finding a new treatment or potentially even a cure.
One of my favourite fundraisers this year was the office bake-off. Everyone was so competitive and the energy in the office was great. The cakes weren’t bad either!
We also had a summer barbecue for all staff and their families and that was a lovely afternoon. Our team led the charge on raffle prizes and lots of companies donated, which meant lots of raffle tickets sold in aid of Alzheimer’s Research UK. In total, we raised more than £1,100 for the charity this year and we’re looking forward to raising even more in 2022.
Looking back, it’s clear we have achieved a lot together in the last 12 months and I’m excited to see where the next 12 take us. In the New Year I’ll be giving my predictions for the year ahead, but in the meantime – Happy holidays!