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Tech Buzzes and Execution Beckons at SCOPE 2019

by Dan McDonald

The Summit for Clinical Ops Executives, or SCOPE as most know it, returned to Orlando this year. Held at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, on the famed but increasingly overcrowded International Drive, the conference ran from February 18-21. (Seriously, it’s becoming Vegas for families. If you can’t find it there, you probably can’t find it anywhere – except Vegas!) I had the honor of attending and representing Imperial Clinical Research Services, along with my colleagues Dave Woodard and Gabrielle Veenstra. Both are Imperial BD directors and have a long history with the company and in the industry supporting sponsors and CROs alike. The conference represents important business, but many of us who attended from Imperial have been around long enough, it seemed like a reunion of sorts. A chance to see and reconnect with old friends and colleagues.

SCOPE was celebrating its 10th anniversary. It has become one of the hottest conferences in the clinical research industry, drawing nearly 2,000 attendees from the U.S., Europe and the rest of the world. The event has also become a destination for a variety of different types of vendors, who come to showcase their solutions and hobnob with current and potential clients. This year, Imperial decided not to exhibit, but instead focused efforts on setting up meetings with clients and prospects ahead of time, and also made sure to attend a variety of sessions on key industry issues.

As we’ve seen for nearly the full 10 years SCOPE has been in existence, the focus on technology continued to expand at the 2019 event. In fact, the signature sponsors were technology powerhouses like Oracle Health Sciences and Medidata, not to mention IQVIA, which has a strong and expanding portfolio of tech-based solutions. Industry stakeholders are leveraging technology in new and exciting ways to create more efficiencies in study conduct and the way information is collected and shared. Here is what I continue to find interesting with this trend:  tech-driven topics are some of the hottest sessions, and tech-driven startups and other vendors are garnering lots of attention in the press and from industry, but adoption rates still seem remarkably low. For example, the topic of eConsent for clinical trials is not new and there are a growing number of vendors offering eConsent solutions. Yet, one of the largest and progressive global pharmaceutical companies presented a case study where they had just recently piloted eConsent for the first time on an early phase trial. The contradiction between solution availability and uptake is striking.

The conference also featured many companies and topics that focused on patient engagement, patient centricity, and patient recruitment – all terms used interchangeably and sometimes confusingly, depending on who was using them and in what context. Regardless, the significant swing in focus for the industry is to be applauded, no matter how late it may be. Many sponsor companies are focusing on what steps they can take to treat study volunteers as partners in the development of their new compounds. Innovative vendors have come up with unique ways to lessen the burden of participation for study volunteers and their often forgotten caregivers. It is refreshing to see and hear.

The Imperial team had the chance to interact with many of these companies. The team also met with sponsors and CROs who are using our solutions to help bridge critical gaps in study conduct support. While a growing number of solutions exist, sponsors and CROs stated that the largest cost drivers and some of the most disruptive issues they are facing still have to do with on-time SIV and FPI. Imperial’s unique and highly complementary services set in the areas of patient engagement, site and study materials, ancillary supplies and equipment, and translation management take direct aim at those and other issues keeping clinical ops professionals up at night. Our clients are piloting all sorts of new technologies. Likewise, Imperial has worked to integrate and partner with leading-class technologies that drive efficiencies in our solution delivery. At the end of the day though, adoption of these new technologies moves along at a very slow pace. Our conversations at the show reinforced our belief that what these companies are most desperate for is strong, predictable execution from their partner vendors. An understanding of what motivates and best supports the key stakeholders in the clinical research process – and the ability to deliver on time in an increasingly complex global marketplace. That’s where Imperial fits. I think after looking past the more sensational topics and discussions at SCOPE, we can clearly see that’s where sponsors and CROs are most hungry for support. We look forward to further engaging with them going forward.

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