Untapped potential in clinical trials sector


Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Half a decade of domestic growth in the clinical trials sector has failed to attract a greater share of global industry-sponsored trials to Australia, according to a new report from the MedTech and pharmaceutical growth centre, which touts the sector’s potential in the COVID recovery.

The Australian clinical trials sector has experienced increases in expenditure, employment and trials conducted in the five years to 2019, but the share of global industry-sponsored trials has remained flat, the report says.

The local sector now employs more than 8,000 people and $1.4 billion was spent on clinical trials in Australia in 2019, both up around five per cent from 2015, according to the government-funded industry growth centre MTPConnect.

Australia improved its share of globally sponsored early phase trials in the period but has lost ground on later stage trials, particularly in infectious disease and cardiovascular trials.

Australia’s clinical trials sector is growing but failing to attract a bigger share of global trials, according to MTPConnect

Preliminary data for 2020 in the report suggests the number of industry-sponsored clinical trials fell globally last year because of COVID-19 but Australia has been less affected than virus ravaged countries like the US.

Australia’s relatively successful handling of the pandemic creates a new opportunity to accelerate growth domestically and to attract more global trials, according to MTPConnect managing director Dr Dan Grant.

“Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic gives us a window of opportunity to further strengthen our reputation as a clinical trials destination of choice,” he said.

“We are one of the few countries in the world with a sophisticated healthcare system where many COVID-19 related restrictions have been lifted or eased, which means we have the opportunity to attract even greater numbers of clinical trials to Australia.”

The MedTech and pharmaceutical growth centre outlined four emerging opportunities to capture a greater share of global trials over the next decade.

“These relate to building our capability in precision healthcare in trials and undertaking innovative clinical trial design, applying digital health innovations to enhance patient recruitment and achieve efficiencies, and an increased focus on patient awareness and engagement to increase recruitment,” Dr Grant said.

The growth centre also advocated for national coordination of ethics approvals for clinical trials and addressing the shortage of highly skilled and experienced Clinical Research Associates and Clinical Trial Coordinators.

“Australia is well-placed to leverage its competitive advantages and continue growing its clinical trials sector, out-compete other countries for foreign investment, create skilled jobs and deliver sustained health benefits for Australians,” Dr Grant said.

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