Novartis adds more partners to Beacon of Hope initiative for HBCUs and clinical trial diversity

Swiss pharma giant Novartis welcomed new collaborators to its Beacon of Hope initiative focused on expanding clinical trial inclusion and medical care for underserved patient populations.

New members of the initiative include Advarra, Virb and BeeKeeperAI, which will provide a variety of digital tools used in clinical trials and for researching healthcare inequities, the company said in a July 12 press release. Also joining the group are Amgen and Alnylam. Drugmakers Sanofi and Merck & Co. are among those that previously joined the initiative.

Novartis and its Novartis US Foundation set up the initiative in 2021 by linking with 26 historically Black colleges, universities and medical schools to address health disparities through holistic community-based collective action.

The program’s aim is to develop clinical trial centers of excellence at HBCUs and have trial managers and investigators of color oversee trials that include higher numbers of underrepresented populations so as to better represent U.S. patient populations.

“Our relentless commitment to the success of Beacon of Hope led us to undertake a comprehensive assessment of where we have made important progress, and where we still have gaps to fulfilling the mission of the program,” Linda Armstrong, M.D., the foundation’s president and head of Novartis’ U.S. corporate responsibility, said in the release.

“We actively sought out collaborations with organizations that both possess the expertise necessary to bridge these gaps—particularly on the technology front.”

In June 2022, Novartis upped its commitment to the initiative by $17.7 million, bringing its funding total for Beacon of Hope to $50 million over the next decade. Howard University College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science are among the HBCUs taking part in the program.