Merck turns to Acclinate to increase African American participation in cancer trials

Against a backdrop of Big Pharma’s slow progress to increase the diversity of clinical trials, Merck & Co. has teamed up with digital health company Acclinate to try and enroll more African American patients in its cancer drug studies.

Merck will get access to Acclinate’s NOWINCLUDED platform, which is designed to engage diverse populations on health-related issues. The platform aims to increase access to health information and resources around disorders that “disproportionately affect communities of color and provides a space for community members to share their experiences and connect,” Acclinate explained in the Nov. 30 release.

Founded in 2020, Birmingham, Alabama-based Acclinate also runs the e-DICT platform, which scores community members' willingness to participate in clinical research. Merck will have access to this predictive analytics tool as part of the collaboration.

"Community engagement is a key step toward increasing diversity in clinical trials," Adrelia Allen, executive director, clinical trial patient diversity at Merck, said in the release. "We're excited to collaborate with Acclinate to raise awareness among the Black/African American community of available clinical trials for people with cancer. It is important that our research appropriately reflects the communities we serve."

Acclinate—which lists Roche and J&J as other Big Pharma partners on its website—was tapped by patient enrollment company Trialbee late last year, with an initial focus on expanding the diversity of participants in studies of lupus drugs.

Despite recent efforts from the FDA, Big Pharmas, biotechs and sponsors alike, U.S. clinical trial diversity dropped to its lowest level for a decade, according to a report from IQVIA released in March.