Abbott gifts $1M to Howard University in effort to diversify clinical trials

Abbott has awarded $1 million to Howard University as part of the healthcare giant’s efforts to diversify clinical trials by providing scholarships to medical students interested in pursuing the field of clinical research.

The gift is part of Abbott’s $5 million, five-year drive for new scholarships at historically Black colleges and universities and minority nursing associations aimed at reducing barriers and increasing diversity in its own clinical trials, the company said.

The Howard gift will cover eight $25,000 scholarships starting next year and running through 2026.

“We want to continue to break down both existing and emerging barriers to participation in clinical trials so we can help more people have greater access to therapies that have the potential to save lives,” Robert Ford, president and CEO of Abbott, said in a statement.

RELATED: 'Forced into a virtual world': Can the tech that kept pharma R&D going through the pandemic tackle trial diversity, too?

The move to increase inclusion of underrepresented groups in clinical trials has been gaining momentum since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In late November, Reify Health unveiled its Diversity Reporting software that gives drug sponsors live updates to improve patient diversity in studies as well as insight on clinical trial enrollment strategies. 

In September, Eli Lilly told Fierce Biotech that while it has gained ground in diversity of clinical trials, people of color continue to be left out of oncology trials. The company said it hit a rate of about 39% minority participation across its trials that covers 12,000 patients in the U.S.; however, that rate sinks to 11.5% for African Americans and 18% for Hispanic and Latino populations when cancer is involved.