“BCCRIN is pleased to be a partner with CCTAM, recognizing the value of a coordinated strategy for highlighting the tremendous clinical research strengths we have in BC and in Canada. This is good for research sites, sponsors and, ultimately, patients.”

— Heather Harris,
Director of Operations
British Columbia Clinical Research Infrastructure Network

The importance of clinical trials

Making Canada a preferred country for conducting clinical trials is an important goal. At any given time, there are more than 3,000 clinical trials underway in Canada, representing an investment worth in excess of $1.8 billion.

Clinical trials make a major contribution to Canada’s research capability. They build expertise among healthcare professionals and ensure that we have strong research programs in our hospitals and universities. They also provide access to new and experimental treatments for patients, making them an important part of a physician’s practice.

But Canada’s clinical trial environment is complex, with many stakeholders: patients, academic researchers, independent research sites, industry, and government. This complexity has an impact on efficiency which, in turn, pushes up costs, slows the clinical trial process, and discourages further investment.

Maintaining quality while increasing efficiency

In recent years, as cost and time pressures led many manufacturers to move trials to the developing world and other areas (such as South America, China, and India), other countries took notice. Jurisdictions like the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, the European Union, and Canada therefore began to make a concerted effort to find ways to maintain quality while also improving efficiencies in the clinical trial process.

A tool to advance Canada’s clinical trial capabilities

The need to identify solutions led to the Canadian Clinical Trials Summit, which was held in September 2011. The event brought together 150 stakeholders from academia, government, and the pharmaceutical industry to look for ways to enhance clinical research in Canada. The resulting action plan included a number of recommendations, one of which was to develop a robust database of Canada’s clinical trial assets to advance our clinical research capabilities.

The development

In April 2014, the Government of Canada announced the formation of the Canadian Clinical Trials Coordinating Centre (CCTCC), which has a mandate to strengthen the Canadian clinical trials environment and promote Canada as a leading destination for clinical trials.

The CCTCC was given responsibility for overseeing the creation of the Canadian Clinical Trials Asset Map (CCTAM), which was developed through a multi-stakeholder committee that included Innovative Medicines Canada (formerly Rx&D), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and HealthCareCAN (see CCTCC funding partners).

Before the CCTAM was created, there were about 25 smaller asset maps in Canada, but the data was fragmented among federal, provincial, and regional bodies, and some of the information was available only on paper. All of the data had gaps, and much of the information was out of date.

The most up-to-date online maps were in Ontario and British Columbia (BC), and the BC Clinical Research Infrastructure Network partnered with the Asset Map project in offering its data as a starting point.

Pharmaceutical companies were also active partners in designing the CCTAM. Typically, such companies have only a few weeks to identify potential sites and determine the patient population needed for that trial. With CCTAM, the goal was to create a search tool that would enable trial sponsors to quickly identify the research sites that are active in that particular area.

The launch

On June 4, 2015, less than one year after the creation of the CCTCC, the Asset Map was officially launched in front of an audience of scientists, researchers, and policymakers.

Since then, the database has grown from 700 to more than 1,100 assets, providing a comprehensive picture of the breadth and depth of Canada’s clinical research assets, including research investigators, clinical research sites, hospitals, institutions, research ethics boards, and other clinical research resources.

To keep records current, the CCTAM’s software has built-in mechanisms to locate older records and send out requests to their owners to provide more recent data, thus ensuring the database remains an up-to-date, trusted, and comprehensive source of information.

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