The most populous region of Canada has officially launched a province-wide initiative to claw back its declining share of global clinical trials.

The first priority for Clinical Trials Ontario (CTO), an independent not-for-profit organisation established through the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation as part of Ontario’s Life Sciences Commercialization Strategy, is to streamline the ethics-review and contract-approval processes for industry-driven multisite clinical trials in the province.

The long-term aim is to make Ontario a location of choice for global clinical trials without compromising ethical standards.

“Ontario is already a leader in biosciences and has one of the largest clusters in North America,” noted Minister of Economic Development & Innovation Brad Duguid. “This initiative is about sustaining the momentum we've built up and supporting a cutting-edge industry and good-quality jobs.”

Losing out

At any given time, over 5,200 clinical trials are underway in Ontario, CTO points out. The province invests more than $500 million a year in basic and translational research and development for the life sciences, while the private sector puts nearly $700 million annually into applied health research, including clinical trials.

Nonetheless, Ontario is losing out on global clinical-trial activity at a rate of 12% a year, with escalating competition from tax and subsidy regimes in developed countries as well as growing clinical-trial capacity and quality in emerging low-cost economies, CTO notes.

“As Ontario is widely recognised as a jurisdiction that generates high-quality data, the greatest gains in competitiveness can be achieved by making structural changes to improve speed and efficiency, while sustaining quality, at the same or reduced costs,” it believes.

CTO history, strategy

A stakeholder-led working group convened by the former Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation assessed the multi-factorial issues around, and barriers to, maintaining and boosting the province’s share of global clinical trials from 2009 and 2011.

At the end of that process, the working group recommended setting up Clinical Trials Ontario.

CTO is pursuing its vision of making Ontario a preferred location for global clinical trials through three ‘strategic pillars’:

•    Improving the speed and reducing the cost of multicentre clinical trials in Ontario by streamlining the research-ethics approval process to a single review for the whole of the province, and by harmonising other administrative processes and platforms.

•    Leveraging strategic partnerships with investigators, industry and government to gain access to global decision-makers for clinical trials and attracting clinical-research investment to Ontario, based on the success of CTO.

•    Engaging patients and the public so that they recognise the benefits of clinical trials for their own health and that of their families and society, while improving patient recruitment through education.