Associate Dean receives significant funding to make clinical trials more efficient


By Kathleen Brown-Blake

A Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry Associate Dean’s mission to make it easier and more efficient to conduct clinical trials received a funding boon today, with Dr. Amit Garg at the centre of two major grants announced by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Garg, Associate Dean of Clinical Research and a world-renowned clinician-scientist with Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and Lawson Health Research Institute, received $3.4 million to develop the Health Data Research Network (HDRN) Canada Pragmatic Trials Training Program. This program will coach researchers through the complicated art of conducting pragmatic clinical trials.

Amit-picture300x300.jpgDr. Amit Garg, Associate Dean, Clinical Research, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

“Clinical trials advance medical care, reduce the costs and burdens of illness on society, and improve health and quality of life for patients with a broad range of health conditions. Unfortunately, researchers face many barriers when conducting these trials,” said Garg, professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Schulich Medicine and a nephrologist at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). “With this funding, our training program will help a new generation conduct better, faster, cheaper and more efficient clinical trials.”

Schulich and Lawson were the natural choice to coordinate this new national training program given that one of their clinical research initiatives, known as the Accelerating Randomized Trials (ART) Platform, includes a pragmatic trials stream.  This structure supports researchers as they conduct pragmatic trials, which are embedded in routine care and analyzed using existing real-world data sources. These trials often include patients who would typically be excluded from traditional trials. Pragmatic trials also lead to findings that accurately reflect the impact of simple interventions.

“Done well, pragmatic trials are faster than traditional trials and can be conducted at a fraction of the cost – yet, few Canadian researchers have the training and experience to conduct them,” said Garg. “This grant allows us to tap into Canada’s tremendous unrealized resources and provide learners with the skills needed to conduct high-quality pragmatic trials.”

Garg is also a member of a newly established pan-Canadian clinical trials consortium that received $39 million in CIHR funding which will strengthen Canada’s ecosystem of randomized-controlled trials. As part of the consortium, announced by CIHR today, Garg joins a network of experts in clinical trials, medicine, biomanufacturing, ethics, statistics and implementation science from across Canada.

Working together, the consortium intends to remove barriers to clinical trials, maximizing their capacity for impact by making trials more equitable through improved access to all Canadians, including those living in rural or remote communities. 

“Canadian clinical trialists are among the best in the world, and yet Canadian clinical trials have fallen behind other countries in recent times, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hamilton-based Dr. P.J. Devereaux, who leads the ACT Consortium.

“Together, we can identify solutions to common trial barriers and operational bottlenecks, creating efficiencies that will increase the number of large, high-impact clinical trials conducted in Canada, ultimately, improving health,” said Devereaux, director of McMaster University’s Division of Perioperative Care and professor of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact and Medicine, and senior scientist at the Population Health Research Institute.

Researchers and scientists who are interested in the training and clinical trial supports that can be provided through the HDRN Canada Pragmatic Trials Training Program, the ART Platform (both at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University) and/or the ACT consortium can visit the Accelerating Randomized Trials (ART) website.