Unit hosts launch of inaugural seminar series on practical issues in clinical trials

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The Unit hosted the launch of an exciting seminar series focusing on practical issues in clinical trials. The inaugural seminar titled 'Patient, Participant and Community Involvement and engagement' marked the start of a comprehensive series of six online webinars scheduled throughout 2024. Co-facilitated by scientists from the Unit’s Clinical Trials Platform, as well as esteemed counterparts from the MRC Gambia and LSHTM, the event shed light on complex aspects of clinical trial implementation.

Notably, regional case studies offering insights gained from experience were shared by Dr. Eugene Ruzagira, head of HIV Epidemiology studies at the Unit, Dr. Geofrey Kimbugwe, Head of Research Governance at the Unit and colleagues from the UK and Gambia; Professor Caroline Free, Co-Director of the LSHTM Clinical Trials Unit and Dr Armel Zemsi, Head of the Clinical Trials Unit at the MRC Unit, The Gambia. These highlighted valuable lessons about effective strategies in community engagement during clinical trials.

In addition to the seminar, the team visited the Unit’s established clinical research center in Masaka city, as well as the Masaka regional hospital, a pivotal collaborator in ongoing clinical studies. This collaborative partnership has not only strengthened the conduct of Unit research overtime, but also enabled it to support the development of stronger localhealth systems through infrastructure development and human resource empowerment, fostering a legacy of impactful research.

They further engaged with PhD students who are currently conducting research using the broad framework of the Unit’s Clinical Trials Platform. This highlighted the importance of the platform as a key resource in the development of pertinent scientific knowledge outputs with the potential to further streamline research. In the case of Jonathan Kintosa a PhD student on the Impala trial, the Platform has reinforced the potential of his research. He said,

“Through the Clinical trials platform, I have been able to collaborate with researchers at a global scale. The knowledge sharing opportunity that this has provided me has not only enhanced the quality of my PhD research, but has also laid for me a strong foundation for potential future collaborations.”

Sheila Kansiime a PhD student on the PrEPVacc study is very optimistic about the prospects of data emerging from the Platform. She said,

“Working as a statistician on the PrEPVacc HIV prevention trial enabled me to develop my PhD research concept. The clinical trial gave me, as an early career scientist, an opportunity to learn some important lessons in the design and conduct of clinical trials. Hopefully the emerging data can contribute to discussions concerning the design of future robust HIV prevention studies in the era of PrEP.”

The leaders of one of the Unit’s robust Community Advisory Boards (CABs) in Masaka city, a crucial part of its science that facilitates co-development of research studies with research communities thus establishing continued community partnership in and ownership of learnings from clinical studies, interacted with the team and shared their vast experience.

Father Emmanuel Katabaazi, Chairperson of the Masaka CAB said,

“The Clinical trials have been instrumental in addressing myths and misconceptions about research studies. By providing accurate information and ensuring transparency, the trials have increased understanding and trust in the research process.”

Establishing a clinical trials and research platform indicates the Unit’s commitment to advancing healthcare through rigorous scientific investigation and innovation. This will build multi-faceted research capacity that will improve not only the Unit's but the country’s capacity to conduct high-quality research, potentially leading to the development of new treatments, interventions, and medical technologies on a global scale.

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