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  1. FARMOVS
12 May 2021

Operational Efficiency in a Turbulent Environment: Circumventing the Covid-19 Pandemic in South Africa with Responsive Site Management Organisation

Quite recently, multinational businesses realized that acclimating to the turbulence brought about by COVID-19, would not ensue as effortlessly as expected. However, those who invested in clinical research partners who have implemented the decentralised clinical trial (DCT) model prior to the pandemic, reaped extraordinary benefits.

In 2020, cross-continental collaboration became essential to the success of clinical trials. Consequently, large CROs had to compete in the race to find competent partners on other continents to ensure their own operational success. This marks a rare phenomenon that created a demand for smaller innovative CROs amongst industry giants.

The search for an innovative CRO with proven experience in the DCT model

Smaller CROs are very familiar with the constant need for improvisation as demanded by an unpredictable environment and restricted access to resources.  Perhaps even more so if you are a South African based company. FARMOVS, located in central South Africa, learnt that constant growth and innovation means that your business never reaches the comfortable place, which large organisations grew accustomed to in the past. The experience that we gained over the past 47 years, meant that the business was able to turn the pandemic into one of our greatest opportunities by simply relying on our established DCT structure and our hard-earned ability to remain agile and responsive.

Site Management Organisation (SMO) expert, Liezl Labuschagne, identified the DCT model as a priority before it became a ‘buzz word’. Even more so, she focused on gaining access to a large patient population in a variety of therapeutic areas. “Once this was accomplished, the next step was to contribute to the development of multiple research naïve sites across the country”, Labuschagne stated.  “This was achieved through training and mentoring programs, resulting in a DCT structure with 25 diverse network partners with virtual remote site visit options and regulatory compliance in place.

“Procedural pitfalls were already eliminated when Europe went into their first national lockdown. For this reason, studies at FARMOVS never came to a halt during 2020. Our on-site accredited laboratory and real-time information on infection rates in different regions, enabled us to redirect recruiting and trial implementation to other network sites. To date, we are maintaining operational efficiency on all fronts, successfully conducting trials for most of the industry leaders.  South Africa’s advantage remains the fact that our infection rates are lower than most countries. In addition, to date a very small portion of the population have received Covid-19 vaccines, which means that COVID vaccine trials can be successfully conducted in South Africa”.

Liezl Labuschagne, Site Management Organisation expert

The benefits of South African CRO partners

Perhaps the time has come for South Africa to become the focus of multi-nationals as the clinical research hub of choice. Its population offers one of the most diverse genomic profiles in the world. The well-established CROs have COVID-specific operational plans in place to mitigate risks and the possible impact of the COVID-19 virus on clinical research outcomes. Thus, continuous clinical research opportunities exist.

Most importantly, patient safety and centricity become easier when operational efficiency comes into play. You have more time to focus on the finer details of each step, maximising your financial and human capital investment to the fullest extent. It appears that the only way to remain fully operational when the third wave reaches its peak, is by partnering with an experienced CRO that believes in transparency, quality, agility, real-time solutions, underpinned by versatility. For most South African CROs this has become the norm. Perhaps it could become your new standard.

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