Stories of Medical Innovation

4 Ways Clinicians Can Dip Their Toes in the Industry Research Pool

Maybe it’s mountains of paperwork or a heavy patient load. Or maybe the roadblock standing in the way of your foray into clinical research is a lack of experience.

Whatever the obstacles are to participating in clinical research with industry partners, Catherine Roy (née Ward) and Erica Hale are familiar with them. As project managers for Wake Forest Innovations’ Center for Industry Research Collaboration, they’re skilled at helping clinicians and investigators with heavy workloads or little experience connect with industry-sponsored research opportunities.

Not only do Roy and Hale understand the research options available for clinicians, but they’re also connected to companies that understand the value of partnering with clinical experts—even ones who are new to clinical research.

“We’re looking for clinicians who are passionate and invested in their fields,” Roy says. “We can make everything else—including all the obstacles—work.”

Many clinicians participate in clinical research as a way to be on the cutting edge of medical innovations. Partnering with industry can give them an opportunity to help advance future treatments and therapy, while also getting access to resources and therapies for their patients that they may not receive otherwise.

Being on the forefront of clinical research may not be as time-consuming as you may think. For starters, Roy and Hale point out that clinical research doesn’t necessarily equate to lengthy clinical trials. Less intensive opportunities are often missed because doctors are reluctant to commit to the long-term, complex nature of trials and—as a result—recuse themselves from industry partnerships altogether.

Simpler clinical research studies can provide valuable opportunities for doctors, while supporting their primary objective.

“The priority for our clinicians is patient care,” Roy says. “Taking part in research helps us to understand our patients better. We’re working with companies and sponsors that have the latest and greatest technology, and we can make that available to our patients.”

When clinicians engage in research, they build relationships with industry partners that may flourish later.

“This is like a first date, meeting for coffee,” Hale says. “Down the road, if our clinicians come up with better ideas for treating patients—whether it be a new medication or a different dosage or a new surgical procedure—they have built a trusted relationship with industry and developed an outlet for their ideas.”

If you want to dip your toes in the clinical research pool but don’t want to be swamped by a time-consuming clinical trial, Roy and Hale have a few recommendations of studies for you:

  1. A prospective cohort study (also known as a registry trial) collects information about a specific population of patients already receiving an intervention, such as a group prescribed the same blood pressure medicine. A pharmaceutical company may want to gather information from a large sample to address a concern, such as a medicine that might be losing its efficacy over time. Data like blood pressure readings would be recorded during routine patient visits and entered into a database. Doctors participating in registry studies are not required to actually prescribe the intervention, only to collect data from the patients receiving it.
  2. A retrospective cohort study examines X-rays, medications and other medical information about a group of individuals. Pulling together information about a cohort creates the opportunity to determine, for instance, whether a certain medicine works better in younger people than older, or whether people exposed to certain risks—such as workplace chemicals—are more likely to develop a disease. The study consists of reviewing existing records and doesn’t require following up with patients.
  3. A cross-sectional study is an observational study that asks a large population to answer questions in order to explore possible medical correlations from a single point of time. It may ask participants general medical questions or bear down on specifics, such as whether an over-the-counter medicine is effective in treating a particular symptom. This kind of study takes minimal involvement; clinicians and their staff supply patients and administer questions.
  4. Sample collection research involves the collection of blood, tissue and other elements of already-scheduled medical procedures. Companies use these samples for a host of research needs. A pharmaceutical company may require blood in the development of a new cholesterol test or a biopsy of an organ exposed during surgery may be used in the study of disease. In most of these cases, the clinician’s role is simply to get patients’ consent to donate constituents that would normally be disposed of and then to collect the sample.

In these types of studies, investigators typically arrange access to the patient population or samples and can dictate their level of involvement.

“A clinician can say, ‘I don’t have that much time, but I really want to get involved,’” Roy says. “We can help facilitate a contract and coordinate other resources to support the study.”

And with the team at the Center for Industry Research Collaboration handling the other study details—like budgeting, contracts, communications, regulations, managing transitions to the Office of Clinical Research and more—the involvement of clinicians can be easy and streamlined.

No matter your level of interest in research—whether you’re merely curious or raring to go—Roy, Hale and their colleagues at the Center for Industry Research Collaboration can help you explore your options and pair you with an industry partner and project that fits your interests.