A unique local infrastructure and a ‘can-do’ attitude among NHS Trusts, including a commitment to embracing commercial studies, has enabled Greater Manchester Comprehensive Local Research Network to maintain its momentum as a leading player in the National Institute for Health Research’s Clinical Research Network, GM CLRN says.  

With England’s highest ratio of commercial to academic trials recruiting in the financial year to date (81% academic versus 19% commercial – the national average for commercial is 14%), GM CLRN is also so far the top-recruiting CLRN in England for commercial studies, notes Sarah Fallon, the local network’s research facilitator.

Between 1 April and 26 November 2012, Greater Manchester recruited 1,776 participants into a total of 108 commercial studies. That also makes it the number two CLRN in England for commercial trials actively recruiting, just four behind Central & East London CLRN with 112 trials.

Commercial-trial tally

On a year-to-year basis, the commercial-trial tally is already ahead in recruitment terms on the whole of the 2011/12 financial year (April to March).

That saw 1,024 participants enrolled into 141 recruiting commercial studies, compared with 973 into 104 studies in 2010/11; 494/47 in 2009/10; and 396 into 29 studies in 2008/9.  

Greater Manchester now has 16 individual Local Specialty Groups (LSGs) actively reporting recruitment into commercial trials – the Respiratory LSG leading the way with 984 participants. Ophthalmology is in second place with 229 participants and Cancer third with 140.

The Cancer LSG currently has the highest number of commercial trials open and recruiting locally, followed by Medicines for Children and, in joint third place, Oral & Gastrointestinal and Diabetes.

In addition, GM CLRN has two member-organisation Trusts among the top NHS Trusts nationally by number of commercial trials recruiting – these being The Christie (third) and Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (fifth).

More realistic

Fallon attributes the Network’s success in maintaining trial recruitment to consistent growth in the number of studies running overall in Greater Manchester as well as more realistic recruitment targets.  

Many sites have pre-identified patients, which “means we can go directly to pharma knowing that the sites are right from the start”, Fallon observes. “We try and get in as early as possible, as often sites can be open months before in other parts of the world”.

Ad additional challenge is that traditionally trials in the South of England are initiated faster than in the North.

“We have found that constantly fostering relationships with pharma and also knowing all of our Trusts inside-out helps.”  

The region has also hosted “ground-breaking studies such as the Salford Lung Study, which is open to thousands of patients and vaccination studies, which can recruit hundreds of patients”, Fallon comments. “The med-tech studies we have also require large numbers of patients.”


Underpinning all of that is “a very forward-thinking/’can-do’ attitude throughout Trusts in Greater Manchester”, Fallon adds

For its part, the CLRN “makes the most of Greater Manchester’s unique infrastructure …  what the region has to offer and taking that out to industry, rather than trying to make sites fit in with industry”.

Another driver has been a concerted effort in Greater Manchester to embrace commercial trials while maintaining the intake of academic studies.

The local landscape has changed “drastically”, Fallon says. “In 2007 GM CLRN existed primarily to support academia. In 2012, this has shifted to supporting commercial studies.”

The NIHR emphasis on creating the right infrastructure to deliver the government’s life sciences strategy has facilitated this shift, as has Greater Manchester’s “very proactive” speciality group leads, Fallon notes.

“Nearly all specialties have been embraced: 25 out of the 28 determined by the Department of Health, whereas some regions are limited to 10-15.”

There is further impetus from GM CLRN’s dedicated Industry Team, “who are always on-site and available to support with the set-up, delivery and recruitment of studies,” Fallon points out.