Equitable Breakthroughs in Medicine Development Reaches Next Phase Driving Diversity in Clinical Trials in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 26, 2024)Equitable Breakthroughs in Medicine Development (EQBMED), led by Yale School of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, the Research Centers in Minority Institutions Coordinating Center (RCMI) at Morehouse School of Medicine, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is a partnership bringing clinical trial sites closer to the community to further equity and access for diverse populations. Today, EQBMED announced the selection of the first four Learning Phase sites, moving the needle closer to a scalable and sustainable clinical trial model in historically underserved communities. The partnerships include:

  • Morehouse School of Medicine and Grady Health System in Atlanta, Georgia;
  • Yale School of Medicine and Medical University of South Carolina in Florence, South Carolina;
  • Research Centers in Minority Institutions Coordinating Center (RCMI) at Morehouse School of Medicine, Texas Southern University in Houston and University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas; and
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.

The selection of these sites is part of EQBMED’s plan to identify an initial 10 community-facing clinical trial sites in historically underrepresented communities of color across the country.

EQBMED’s multi-stakeholder model employs a holistic approach that considers the baseline capabilities of each site, allowing EQBMED to focus on creating opportunities for communities of color to participate and stay true to the program’s mission to promote clinical trial access and education.

The EQBMED model stands out from others in the field because of its collaborative approach to working with local sites and trusted voices within the community to address critical barriers facing communities of color and rural residents. The program works to increase awareness of clinical trials, address misinformation and historical mistrust, while ensuring the trial is easily accessible.

The EQBMED partnership meets sites where they are, building on their strengths and capabilities to become sustainable within the clinical trial ecosystem. This means developing a tailored approach to each site, which could include, fostering sustainable partnerships with community-based organizations and leaders, enhancing technology capabilities, augmenting infrastructure, and providing funding for dedicated personnel.

This tailored approach drove the development of a new model to consider site readiness – the site maturity assessment model – which enables a site to identify its current capabilities as well as aspirations and co-develop a roadmap to achieve them. The maturity model enables tracking progress at each site over time toward reaching the definition of success agreed upon by the community, trial sites, and EQBMED while maintaining the necessary scientific standards and metrics for quality in clinical trial research.

"Advancing health equity, which includes diverse participation in clinical trials, means meeting individuals where they are, building trust, and responding to the needs of communities. This has continued to be a priority of the Yale School of Medicine,” said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS, Associate Dean for Health Equity Research, and C.N.H Long Professor of Internal Medicine, Public Health, and Management at Yale University. “Establishing trust is step one in cultivating meaningful collaboration with communities. Our goal of having steadfast commitment to inclusivity and advancements in healthcare can only be achievable through genuine investment and an authentic establishment of trust over time.”

“We stand at a thrilling crossroads, having approached our efforts with intentionality, to foster meaningful connections with both our sites and communities,” said Tesheia Johnson, MBA, MHS, Chief Strategy Officer at Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI) at Yale School of Medicine. “Our site model has made incredible strides towards breaking barriers and fostering genuine partnership, building toward collective success in every step.”

Each EQBMED network partner is aligned with one of the four current sites and brings their individual strengths and opportunities, while serving in a mentor role to help each site thrive and meet their goals.

“Backed by a rich history, this diverse mix of clinical trial sites saves lives by giving their patients – the Atlanta, Florence, Houston, Galveston and Nashville communities – an opportunity to advance the science of lifesaving medicines as well as benefit from this extraordinary work,” said Dr. Priscilla Pemu, MD, MS, FACP, Associate Dean for Clinical Research and Professor of Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine. “EQBMED is making real progress towards equitable access to clinical trials and enhancing these sites with needed resources.”

“We are seeking to address systemic barriers that underserved patients often face when it comes to clinical trials, including a lack of outreach, patient mistrust, and a lack of clinical trial infrastructure in historically underserved communities,” said Dr. Elizabeth Ofili, MD, MPH, FACC, Professor of Medicine and Principal Investigator of the RCMI Coordinating Center at Morehouse School of Medicine. “The RCMI Coordinating Center and research consortium are pleased to partner with EQBMED to accelerate drug discovery for the benefit of our communities.”

“There are myriad challenges to overcome if we want to address the racial and economic disparities in clinical trials and health care. Moreover, communities of color are not a monolith, so we cannot expect any two sites to require the same solutions. I am excited to be working with a team that understands that unique needs require unique solutions, and I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues on this necessary and crucial initiative,” said Dr. Peter Embí, MD, MS, FACP, FACMI, FAMIA, FIAHSI, Professor and Chair of Biomedical Informatics and Medicine and Senior Vice-President for Research and Innovation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“PhRMA’s funding for EQBMED was born from thousands of conversations with patients, community leaders, health providers, industry experts and policymakers about the importance of enhancing clinical trial diversity. Today’s announcement is years in the making and shows what’s possible when people from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise come to the table to work towards solutions together,” said Stephen J. Ubl, President, and Chief Executive Officer of PhRMA.

EQBMED is building on and leveraging past and present work by the network partners to support local trial sites in historically underrepresented communities in this critical area of clinical research. As we work to increase access to clinical trials for diverse patient populations in pursuit of true health equity, we are committed to sharing our findings broadly to build a foundation of trust, innovate a new approach to clinical trial diversity, and create beneficial change for community-centric research, for medical science, and for society at large.

More information at: https://medicine.yale.edu/ycci/researchspectrum/collab/equitable-breakthroughs-medicine-development/.

About PhRMA

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Over the last decade, PhRMA member companies have more than doubled their annual investment in the search for new treatments and cures, including nearly $101 billion in 2022 alone. 

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