Over the last three financial years, 30% of global multicentre commercial studies supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)’s  Medicines for Children Research Network (MCRN) have recruited their first patient in the UK, the Network says.

As the MCRN points out, the first global patient recruited is “a key performance indicator for the life-sciences industry, demonstrating that resident research infrastructure can support the rapid set-up of research studies”.

The Network was first set up in 2005 and has since supported more than 300 studies and recruited over 25,000 children and young people to clinical trials.

The MCRN started small: in its first fully operational year (2006-7), the Network adopted just four commercial paediatric studies. By the 2011-12 financial year, this figure had climbed to 55 studies.

Little experience

Initially, notes Dr William van't Hoff, co-director of the Medicines for Children Research Network, paediatricians “had little experience of supporting life-sciences industry studies, but we’ve worked hard to promote the benefits of commercial research, for children, clinicians and the NHS”.

The MCRN has delivered paediatric studies across a spectrum of conditions, from inherited metabolic disorders to allergies and from neuroscience to neonatal care. And a range of sites have been involved, including tertiary centres with NIHR Clinical Research Facilities and district general hospitals.

According to Steve Thorne, UK country clinical operations head for Roche – one company that has secured its first global patient for a paediatric study with the help of the MCRN – the network “has got much better at developing relationships with the life-sciences industry”.

It “definitely feels like we are working together to improve the environment for paediatric research and these results are a positive indicator of directional improvement and more efficient study set-up”, Thorne comments.