A special online symposium, 'Trials in a Pandemic – embracing flexibility and ensuring integrity', will take place from June 30 to July 1.

The Health Research Board - Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN) based in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at NUI Galway, in collaboration with colleagues in the University College Dublin and the University of Aberdeen, are hosting the symposium to address and engage in discussion on the conduct of trials in a pandemic. 

The initiative is one of the many ways researchers in NUI Galway, University College Dublin and the University of Aberdeen are meeting the challenges faced by the scientific community from COVID-19.

Many new clinical trials

In the face of the pandemic, many non-COVID-19 clinical trials have paused activity and many new clinical trials addressing new treatments for COVID-19, including vaccinations, have commenced globally. Ireland is one of the many global sites currently recruiting patients to COVID-19 clinical trials.

Topics included in this free online event include: Conducting trials in a pandemic – shared experiences in navigating uncertainty; Current knowledge needs for COVID-19 trials; Mapping trials in a pandemic and reducing research waste; and Post-pandemic era – lessons for the future of trial research.

A full list of invited speakers is available on the HRB-TMRN website at https://bit.ly/2YGkdPH'

Professor Declan Devane, scientific director of the Health Research Board - Trials Methodology Research Network at NUI Galway, said: “COVID-19 is a complex disease and there is relatively limited knowledge on the disease progression, its prevention, treatment and its impact.

"However, the global research response has been rapid, collaborative and extensive. This includes accelerated programs to develop a vaccine and other interventions for the prevention and treatment of the disease.

"The response is such that new knowledge is generated daily and will likely continue to do so as the pandemic unfolds. However, there are challenges in conducting COVID-19 trials and COVID-19 has impacted on heavily on the conduct of research focusing on other areas of health.

"This symposium brings together leading researchers who will share their experiences, knowledge and insights, which will help inform decisions on how we continue to do high quality research in and after a pandemic.”

Dr Sandra Galvin, HRB-TMRN programme manager at NUI Galway, said: “The challenges facing the trial community to ensure the delivery of well-designed and managed clinical trials are significant.

Best methodological approaches to trials

"The speed at which research is happening is at unprecedented levels, and scientists have had to adapt to big changes. The HRB-TMRN actively supports the trial community in delivering the best methodological approaches to trials, and this event will help share valuable experiences by experts in this area both nationally and internationally.”

Dr Mairead O’ Driscoll, interim chief executive at the Health Research Board, said: “Quick thinking and rapid response is essential during a pandemic. It is important that speed is matched with research quality and integrity.

"Having proper trial methodology, regulatory structures and an open approach to sharing findings is vital because we must build public confidence in decision making about new treatments, vaccines or practice.

"This symposium provides the perfect platform to centralise expertise on conduct of trials during a pandemic, share learning and inform future decisions.”

The event is funded by the Health Research Board. For further information, visit: www.hrb-tmrn.ie or email hrb-tmrn@nuigalway.ie. Follow on Twitter @hrbtmrn.