Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital co-lead $39M Accelerating Clinical Trials (ACT) Consortium

National collaboration will result in better treatments and health-care innovations

January 19, 2023

Dr. Dean Fergusson“ACT will transform the clinical trials landscape in Canada, resulting in more treatment options for patients, more Canadian-made health innovations and a more robust health-care system.” - Dr. Dean Fergusson
Randomized clinical trials are critical for identifying and developing new and better treatments and improving our health-care system. However, these trials, which rigorously compare different treatments in humans, can also be exceedingly complex, costly and challenging for patients to participate in.

The new Accelerating Clinical Trials (ACT) Consortium, co-led by The Ottawa Hospital, aims to transform Canada’s clinical trials landscape by removing barriers, streamlining approvals, enhancing support and facilitating the engagement and participation of patients and other stakeholders.

ACT was recently awarded $39 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research as part of the federal government’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy – Clinical Trials Fund.  

“The pandemic greatly accelerated the drive to conduct clinical trials more efficiently and inclusively, and many of the lessons learned can now be applied to advance research in other diseases,” said Dr. Dean Fergusson, Scientific Director of The Ottawa Hospital’s Clinical Epidemiology Program, professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the key architects behind ACT. “ACT will transform the clinical trials landscape in Canada, resulting in more treatment options for patients, more Canadian-made health innovations and a more robust health-care system.”

‘Democratizing’ clinical trials

Maureen Smith“Researchers need to involve patient and family partners right from the beginning when it comes to planning and conducting clinical trials,”- Maureen Smith, patient partner 
One of the main goals of ACT is to “democratize” clinical trials by ensuring that more patients can participate.

For example, ACT will develop infrastructure to allow community hospitals across the country to enroll patients in clinical trials, something that has traditionally only been possible at academic hospitals.

ACT will also facilitate the involvement of patients, family members, policy-makers and other stakeholders in setting research priorities and designing trials.

“Researchers need to involve patient and family partners right from the beginning when it comes to planning and conducting clinical trials,” said Maureen Smith, a patient partner and ACT Knowledge User who collaborates with researchers at The Ottawa Hospital on several studies. “This is the only way to ensure that trials address the priorities and outcomes that are most important to patients and caregivers and have a meaningful impact on the health care system.”

The Ottawa Hospital’s Office for Patient Engagement in Research Activities (OPERA), which has actively supported patient engagement in clinical trials locally and provincially, will continue this work nationally through its involvement in ACT.

ACT will also partner with Indigenous Peoples and establish a process to identify Indigenous health priorities and interventions to be evaluated in clinical trials.

Exploring novel clinical trial designs

Another area of focus is in using innovative pragmatic or “real-world” trials to compare different approved treatments in a broad population, with efficient data collection via electronic health records and existing health databases.

“At The Ottawa Hospital, we’ve pioneered these kinds of pragmatic clinical trials and shown that they can answer important health care questions for a fraction of the cost,” said Dr. Tim Ramsay, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, Scientific Director of the Ottawa Methods Centre and professor at the University of Ottawa.

Other areas of focus include supporting Canadian clinical trial networks and units, enhancing the implementation of clinical trial results, facilitating international trials and engaging with Canadian biomanufacturing and biotech companies to facilitate their clinical trials.

ACT already includes more than 250 researchers, patients and other stakeholders across the country, with more expected to join. ACT is led by an operations committee that includes three researchers from The Ottawa Hospital (Dean Fergusson, Jeremy Grimshaw and Stuart Nicholls). Other members of the Operations Committee include P.J. Devereaux and Guy Rouleau (nominated co-chairs), as well as Wayne Clark, Amit Garg, Valerie Harvey, Corinne Hohl, Catherine Joyes, Susan Marlin, Emily McDonald, Louise Pilote and Lawrence Richer. Other members of The Ottawa Hospital involved in ACT include Julia Chehaiber, Jennifer Cox, Alan Forster, Manoj Lalu, Penny Phillips, Justin Presseau, Tim Ramsay, and Monica Taljaard. Other local members of ACT include Jason Berman from CHEO Research Institute (and the Maternal Infant Child and Youth Research Network) and Melissa Brouwers from the University of Ottawa.              

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital were also awarded more than $5 million for two clinical trials as part of the recent Clinical Trials Fund announcement. Learn more about these trials, which involve CAR-T therapy for cancer and stem cell therapy for septic shock. Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital are also playing a key role in many of the clinical trial training grants announced.  

Watch this 3-minute video to learn more about ACT: 

About The Ottawa Hospital 
The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals, where excellent care is inspired by research and driven by compassion. As the third-largest employer in Ottawa, our support staff, researchers, nurses, physicians, and volunteers never stop seeking solutions to the most complex health-care challenges. Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, attracts some of the most influential scientific minds from around the world. Backed by generous support from the community, we are committed to providing the world-class, compassionate care we would want for our loved ones.

About the University of Ottawa
The University of Ottawa is home to over 50,000 students, faculty and staff, who live, work and study in both French and English. Our campus is a crossroads of cultures and ideas, where bold minds come together to inspire game-changing ideas. We are one of Canada’s top 10 research universities—our professors and researchers explore new approaches to today’s challenges. One of a handful of Canadian universities ranked among the top 200 in the world, we attract exceptional thinkers and welcome diverse perspectives from across the globe.

Media Contact 
Jenn Ganton