Following a new trend in pharma, CRO Parexel hires its first chief patient officer

In a first for the contract research organization, Parexel has hired Clare Grace, Ph.D., as its first-ever chief patient officer, with a focus on boosting clinical trial diversity.

Parexel says the appointment is a first for a “top-tier CRO” and “reinforces Parexel’s patients-first focus in clinical research.”

Grace comes to the company as CPO from a six-year stint at rival contract firm Syneos Health, where she was heading up clinical solutions, and before had an eight-year tenure at PPD. Before these CRO roles, she worked at AstraZeneca’s R&D department, as well as biopharma Antisoma.

In the last few years, a number of pharmas have started to carve out new CPO roles, with the likes of Astellas, Ipsen and Sanofi, the first Big Pharma to make such a move, seeing the need for a person focused on the so-called “patient experience.”

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In pharma, these roles have pretty much boiled down to this hire helping the company understand patients and patient organizations, and to support operational teams to work together directly with them, with the main goal being able to develop and sell their products better.

But with Parexel now being the first to take this trend into the big CRO space, we may see more CPOs cropping up in the future.

The new role will see Grace lead global patient advocacy and site efforts, including patient engagement strategies and efforts to enhance clinical trial diversity, as well as new approaches to help teams and customers work more effectively with investigative sites, Parexel said in a statement.

Pharma was accused of using the CPO hires as a buzzy nod to the need for better patient engagement, but with little actual firepower behind the role. Parexel appears to want a deeper integration of Grace into their business, with the challenge of trial diversity a key issue for all studies being a central part of her role a nod to that.

“I am thrilled to join Parexel and to continue to champion the company’s patient focus to ultimately improve clinical trials and accelerate the delivery of new therapies for patients around the world,” said Grace.

“I look forward to working closely with our sites and technology partners to improve the patient experience and to further infuse the patient perspective across all studies and further enhance our ability to deliver innovative clinical trial solutions that meet our customers’ needs.”