Gold Coast accelerates as clinical trial hub during COVID

Business at Griffith University’s Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) has continued and actually thrived in the pandemic, with the Gold Coast site now the first globally to recruit patients for a multi-national rheumatology trial, and screening the first patient in Australia for another multi-national trial.

The Gold Coast and the state of Queensland have benefited from the state’s current low COVID-risk status, accelerating capability that had been rapidly building, pre-pandemic.

A 2019 study, commissioned by the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct, Regional Development Australia (RDA) Gold Coast, City of Gold Coast and the Queensland Government Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation, found the Gold Coast was Australia’s largest regional clinical trial location, with 126 trials contributing almost $12 million per annum to the city’s economy, and significant growth anticipated over the coming decade.

Director of the Griffith University Clinical Trial Unit, Professor Evelin Tiralongo, said growth could be even stronger than earlier projections of the local sector being worth $33 million by 2029, with further demand likely to be caused by the pandemic.

“Providing high-quality clinical trial services to global and national sponsors, as well as supporting researcher-led trials, is core business for us, and being able to operate in a COVID-safe way, in an environment with so far low levels of coronavirus in the community in Australia, Queensland, and the Gold Coast in particular, is an advantage,” Professor Tiralongo said.

“After initial disruptions to active trials, we worked very quickly on setting up a COVID-19 safe plan to enable us to continue providing essential services for existing clinical trials and subsequently take on new business, with great support from the University, our External Advisory Committee and the clinicians we work with; whether in private practice or at the Gold Coast University Hospital.

With intense focus on multiple COVID-19 trials worldwide, researchers, including Griffith’s Professor Michael Good AO, Principal Research Leader at the Institute for Glycomics and a member of the Australian Government’s National COVID-19 Health and Research Advisory Committee, continue to press the need for vital research and trials into other important conditions to continue, or risk significant health consequences.

One such important trial for which Griffith’s Clinical Trial Unit is currently recruiting participants, alongside other research sites in Canada, USA, Europe, Turkey and Australia, is to evaluate the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of a combined Meningococcal vaccine in young adults.

Dr Claire Williams, the Clinical Trial Unit’s Business and Operations Manager, has welcomed the opportunity to trial new combination Meningococcal vaccine.

“We’re really pleased to be taking part in this study because, despite everyone’s attention being currently focussed on COVID-19, it’s still vitally important that we continue to develop and improve vaccines and treatments for other chronic and serious diseases,” Dr Williams said.

“Currently, there are various vaccines available in Australia against Meningococcal disease. This study will evaluate the efficacy and safety of a MenABCWY combination vaccine.”

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that can cause serious illness including meningitis and septicaemia.

“Through the study, volunteers receive vaccinations against meningococcal disease which may help to protect them against infection. Although adults are not at high risk of invasive meningococcal disease they can unknowingly carry it and spread it to those more vulnerable such as babies, young children, and teenagers,” Clinical Research Nurse and Lead Coordinator of the trial at Griffith’s Clinical Trial Unit, Gabby Menolotto said.

Healthy volunteers aged 18-25 are being sought amongst those people who missed out on vaccine catch-up programs or attended high school outside of Australia and may not have received meningococcal vaccines in the past, and therefore may be eligible to participate in the current trial.

For more information or to register interest, contact Gabby Menolotto, Clinical Research Nurse on 07 5678 0368 or visit www.griffith.edu.au/griffith-health/clinical-trial-unit/trials

 

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