Novartis has invested another $17.7 million as part of a 10-year plan to address racial inequalities in clinical trials.
The Swiss pharma and its U.S. foundation set up the Beacon of Hope initiative in July 2021 in collaboration with 26 historically Black colleges, universities and medical schools. The aim is to address health disparities through holistic community-based collective action.
The latest move sees the company commit $17.7 million in grants over 10 years as part of a collaboration with Howard University College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.
The aim is to create clinical trial centers of excellence in these schools. The trials at these centers will be overseen by investigators and trial managers of color and will focus on participants from underrepresented populations to “more accurately represent the U.S. population and improve health outcomes,” Novartis said in a statement June 22.
The three schools will work together with a clinical trial center already established at Morehouse School of Medicine to form a consortium under the Beacon of Hope banner. “Together they will collectively strengthen clinical trial capabilities and improve the quality and inclusivity of clinical trials to contribute to improved health outcomes for communities of color and help rebuild their trust in the healthcare system,” Novartis said.
Sanofi and Merck & Co. have already signed up to conduct trials at the centers, the Swiss drugmaker added.
“Last year we issued a call to action to other like-minded companies and organizations to join us in creating this paradigm shift in health equity, and we are honored and humbled that Merck and Sanofi have answered the call,” said Patrice Matchaba, M.D., head of U.S. corporate responsibility at Novartis and president of the Novartis U.S. Foundation.
The latest funding commitment brings the total amount Novartis has pledged to the Beacon of Hope initiative over the next 10 years to $50 million.
“Health equity isn’t just a goal, it’s a right,” David Carlisle, M.D., president and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in south Los Angeles, said in a statement. “But like so many rights we now enjoy, shepherding it from idea to movement to reality takes a concerted effort, unyielding will and strong partnerships. That’s why we value our relationship with Novartis, the Novartis U.S. Foundation and all other Beacon of Hope participants as we work together towards a healthier tomorrow for everyone.”
The issue of bias against certain patient groups in clinical trials has been steadily working its way up the agenda in recent years. A report in May by the Committee on Improving Representation of Women and Underrepresented Minorities in Clinical Trials and Research shone a light on the issue. It came a month after the FDA encouraged drugmakers to create and submit racial and ethnic recruitment plans for clinical trials.