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Good Trouble for Good Medicine

I am BIO
May 11, 2021

COVID-19 has brought to light many failures in our healthcare system – including the long-running issue of the lack of diversity in clinical trials.

To understand how therapeutics or vaccines may affect a large population of patients, clinical trials should include a representation of the people who will be ultimately impacted by the treatment. That would include considerations around race, ethnicity, sex, and geographical location, but also to those with a variety of different pre-existing conditions.

In the latest I AM BIO podcast, BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath spoke with representatives from government, the medical community, and the private sector about what is behind a lack of diversity in clinical trials and what is being done to address this issue.

A variety of different factors can act as barriers to individuals participating in clinical trials, but a lack of outreach is a major issue. Dr. Richardae Araojo, Director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity at the Office of the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says, “Oftentimes, there’s simply a perception that minorities do not want to participate, and they aren't asked.”

Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick participated in a clinical trial for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and documented the process on her YouTube show, Dr. Lisa on the Street. “The reason I did that is because people on the street or in the community were telling me they didn't trust the vaccines or the process. And one of the ways they could be convinced is if they saw black people participating in the process.”

Pharmaceutical companies, often the facilitators of clinical testing, recognize their role is key in addressing the lack of diversity. Gerren Wilson, Head of Inclusion Strategy and Partnerships within the Office of Diversity at Genentech, sought outside help. “We established an advisory group to both give us the insight and then also hold us accountable for driving change.”

Expanding diversity is a priority for the government, biotech, and medical communities, but all three of these guests recognize that more progress is needed for future success in disease treatment.

This layered and multi-faceted conversation will continue at BIO Digital June 14-18 and the BIO Clinical Trial Diversity Summit June 24- 25.