5 Clinical Trial Insights From the 2024 SCOPE Summit

By Francesca Properzi

Reading Time: 4 minutes

These are transformative times for pharma research and, as trends such as decentralized trials increasingly take the spotlight, clinical operations executives that want to drive change and stay competitive have much to keep up with.

A first-in-class platform for gaining such pharmaceutical industry insights, as well as having in-depth discussions and embracing networking opportunities, is the SCOPE Summit. Now in its 15th year of fostering collaboration, innovation, and strategic decision-making in clinical operations, trials, and research, the Florida conference’s recently-concluded 2024 edition welcomed 4,000 attendees from 27 countries.

DT Consulting was among those making the trip to Orlando last month for the event, where I delivered the podium presentation ‘A New Framework for Connecting Digital Capabilities Maturity to Clinical Sites and Participants’ Experience in Clinical Trials’. While there it was also a pleasure to meet in-person many members of the DT Clinical Leadership Board, as well as connect with my Indegene colleague Ram Yeleswarapu, for a productive and informative breakfast meeting.

Between those discussions and the sessions at the wider SCOPE meeting, many important insights for the clinical research industry were illuminated; here are five that clinical operations executives should prioritize.

1. Embrace Gen AI’s potential: Naturally, the SCOPE Summit’s digital transformation discussions saw generative AI take center stage. Pfizer’s Senior Director and Global Head of AI/ML Prasanna Rao delivered a ground-breaking presentation on ‘Embracing Generative AI in Clinical Development: The LLM Breakthrough’. The session explored the vast potential of Gen AI in clinical trials, particularly when it comes to content creation.

From fueling content initiatives to breaking through language barriers, Gen AI will have a significant impact on clinical research process efficiency in the months and years to come. As it does so, the methodologies and data used to train algorithms will challenge both industry players and regulators alike.

2. Evolve change-management approaches: Technological advancements like AI pose unprecedented change-management challenges for clinical operations leaders. A fireside chat between Sylvie Kruyner, Director of DCT Operations at Bayer Pharmaceuticals, and Michelle Shogren, CEO and Owner of Innovate in What You Do, emphasized the need to change mindsets to a ‘design thinking’ attitude, opening communication channels between team players to address everyday challenges. As part of this, communicating the vision and employing co-creation approaches will be crucial to the integration of new technologies into companies’ current operations and ultimately to the success of their digital transformation plans.

3. Act on innovation overload: The industry is abuzz with innovative solutions for decentralized trials, each promising unique benefits for similar targets. Navigating these options requires careful consideration to align with a company’s individual trial needs. Sponsors also face the challenge of finding reliable partners amid the innovation wave. An interesting audience poll at the SCOPE Summit highlighted how trust is paramount in this era of change, and that sponsors are seeking collaborators with proven track records and deep understanding of decentralized trial dynamics. Flexibility in a vendor’s operating model is also a highly-prized competitive advantage.

4. Keep a clear vision for clinical trial patients: As industry adoption of hybrid and decentralized clinical trials increases, pharma’s patient support efforts must keep pace. However, a lack of vision behind decentralization can be damaging to this work. Krista Russell, Head of Digital Health Technology at Takeda, brought a fresh perspective to this issue in the session ‘Building a Village for Modern Clinical Research: Foundational Technology to Enable Successful Decentralized Clinical Trials’, in which she emphasized the importance of shifting the focus from technology to patients.

A patient-centric vision starts with realizing that, to clinical trials participants, decentralized, remote, and hybrid trials all look the same and clinical operations leaders need to shift from a reactive to a proactive model, adapting technology advancements that meet real patient needs. Alongside this, as frequently underlined during the conference, understanding the requirements, and supporting the experiences of, clinical investigators is also more important than ever for improving patient equity, diversity, and inclusion.

5. Continue collaborating: A final main take-away message from the SCOPE Summit was the importance of collaborative initiatives. As I gathered with DT Consulting’s Clinical Leadership Board members, each from a different top 20 pharma companies, at our breakfast meeting, an underlying emphasis in all our discussions was the importance of cross-industry collaboration.

The Clinical Leadership Board themselves have successfully collaborated on the development of a new digital capability maturity framework that can be connected to the trial experiences of both clinical sites and participants. And, looking ahead, such cross-industry could be the driver for navigating many of the challenges faced by the industry, including closing internal and external trial experience gaps.

A transformative moment for trials

Clinical trials and research are pivotal to advancing medical care and shaping the future of patient treatment. As we move forward, building strong partnerships and collectively advancing healthcare must be our guiding principles. The journey ahead will offer many opportunities for continued collaboration between stakeholders that want to use innovative technologies and practices to help shape the healthcare landscape and forums such as SCOPE remain an integral part of making that happen.

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