Hide and Seek: Clues for Finding Clinical Research Studies
The old saying goes, “Seek and ye shall find,” but how can clinical trial sites connect with opportunities in their therapeutic areas or break into new “hidden” studies? When it comes to sourcing studies, sites face challenges including determining how to start the process effectively, developing and maintaining a robust network of updated contacts, and connecting with well-matched trial opportunities. For many sites, their first “go-to” is www.clinicaltrials.gov, but the majority of information is geared towards patients. “It’s not an industry-facing resource,” explains Scott Palmese, Vice President of Site Operations, BTC Network. “The purpose is for patients to find studies in which to participate – sometimes they’re in the site recruitment phase, but not usually.” Finding hidden studies, however, is a navigable process, but first, let’s decode the term.
Each year, there is an increase in the number of clinical trial sites opening and fewer studies that are easy to enroll and conduct, such as less complex diabetes and hypertension opportunities. The stringency of affiliated inclusion/exclusion criteria is escalating and meeting enrollment goals, in tandem, is challenging. “How can sponsors and CROs vet the sites when there are new sites being opened every year?” said Scott. “Sites have to stand out in order to ensure that they’ll be recognized and be offered new projects.”
Uncovering hidden studies consists of three steps:
- Finding the studies
- Conducting outreach
- Following up and building long-term relationships
Finding the Studies
Keep up-to-date on industry news and trends to determine who is doing what type of research and the best point of contact to begin communication. Both require research and fortunately, there are excellent channels to investigate daily including:
As mentioned previously, https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/, while primarily focused on patients, does also list study opportunities. However, since it is a widely used resource, it may not prove as fruitful as the others listed above. Cafépharma.com and Fiercepharma.com cover industry news. Subscribing to their press releases can keep you in the know. Key information disclosed includes which companies have received funding, often indicating they will be conducting studies and perhaps, looking for clinical trial sites. Other pertinent information that is covered includes study details, where the study is being run, start/end dates and professional contacts.
Linkedin is an excellent resource for researching companies, pertinent job titles and other data that can assist with making crucial connections and building your own universe of contacts. Be cognizant of targeting the correct job title. In a large organization, emailing the CEO will probably get you nowhere, fast.
“You may need to be careful when it comes to the contacts listed, because they’re typically patient recruitment contacts or an individual involved in operations,” advises Scott. “If it’s a smaller company, often the individual listed can point you in the right direction – and in these situations, sometimes the President or CEO may be the right individual. Use your best judgement and learn as much as you can about each company. Get to know the people who work in the therapeutic area you’re targeting.”
Conduct strategic outreach on a regular basis. Contact a company, even if you are not sure if they are working in a specific area. Continually build professional relationships. Smaller sponsors may not have a robust database of sites; if you both work in the same therapeutic area, you want to ensure that you are consistently presenting your feasibilities to them for review.
Many larger CROs are multi-therapeutic and understanding the organizational structure of each will assist in conducting effective outreach efforts:
- Be polite but persistent – if you don’t reach the individual the first time you call, try calling again in a day or two
- After the second call, leave a voicemail and send a follow-up email
- Try multiple contacts
- Personalize your emails and discuss why you’re interested in the study, your site’s capabilities and relevant experience
- In both call and emails, be brief and to the point
Being memorable, whether speaking or writing, can help drive positive communication. Use appropriate humor and work to humanize the interaction.
“Call and build that relationship. Talk about Disney or sports or the weather – they’re going to remember you because you have a voice and a personality that they will connect to your name. Talk about your key value,” says Scott.
Following up and Building Long-Term Relationships
You’ve completed the initial outreach and you know the studies. Now, it’s time to build on those relationships for long-term growth which will ultimately lead to finding the hidden studies. Approach your feasibility tactics like a job application. Present a comprehensive overview of your site’s capabilities as they relate to the study at hand. Think of the PSV (Pre-Selection Visit) as the job interview. Put your best put forward and offer an overall picture with the feasibility, working to close the deal during the PSV.
What if you’re not awarded a study initially? Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. A good rule of thumb is to follow-up with sponsors once every two months, depending on the media intel you’ve gleaned from the sources recommended at the beginning of this article. Contact CROs every four to six weeks. (Why the difference? To learn more, download the webinar recording here). Work towards having great conversations that will differentiate you from the pack. Track your interactions in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform such as Salesforce. Making the most of strong relationships will bring the hidden studies out of the shadows and to your clinical research site.
Leverage BTC’s clinical site financial experience and strong relationships with Sponsors/CROs
to promote your site’s growth and profitability. For more information, contact us.
Post by Melissa Daley -
Melissa develops social media and digital marketing content strategies and produces a variety of collateral with creative, effective messaging. Melissa has served as an educator in higher education for close to two decades.