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Gemma Estrada: "We aim to position Catalonia at the forefront of clinical trials in Europe"


Improving the coordination, integration, quality and speed of clinical trials is the primary objective of the Barcelona Clinical Trials Platform (BCTP), an ambitious project promoted by Biocat and the Department of Health of the Government of Catalonia– to position Catalonia among the top five European territories in the capture and execution of clinical research projects. Gemma Estrada is the director of this platform, which will function as a metacentre providing a one-stop gateway to the seven major hospital research institutes in Catalonia and a nationwide network of primary care centre serving more than 5 million patients.


Gemma Estrada (Photo: Daniel Portales, Parc Científic de Barcelona).

How and why was the Barcelona Clinical Trials Platform created?

The Barcelona Clinical Trials Platform (BCTP) was created by Biocat in the last quarter of 2014 –at the request of the Department of Health of the Government of Catalonia as a strategic tool, promoted by both the public sector and the pharmaceutical, biotech and techmed industry, with the aim to position Catalonia among the top five European areas to conduct clinical trials.

What are BCTP objectives?

To improve the coordination, integration, quality and timeframe of clinical research to reduce the resources, time and effort required to carry out the trials. Besides the challenge of attracting early stage innovative therapies to the country, BCTP aims to integrate the experience of researchers in Catalonia with the clinical development of targeted therapies against specific cells to move towards the personalization of care.

To attain these challenges, what specific lines of action have been defined?

The platform aims to create a one-stop gateway that will simplify administrative procedures by making it simpler and easier for clinical trials to reach the main university hospitals in Catalonia and  primary healthcare centres (i.e., more than 5 million patients). Additionally, the platform aims to embed the talent and technology developed in the laboratory benches of research institutes into clinical trials, and further bridge clinical trials into medical practice personalized medicine.

What are the immediate needs identified by the BCTP?

Catalonia needs a powerful information coordination tool so that all hospitals that conduct clinical research can function as a single metacentre and compete with leading international institutes in their effort to attract clinical research projects. It is also necessary to avoid the scattering of resources through the establishment of interest partnerships and increase the critical mass of researchers and patients. Under the umbrella of the BCTP, the collective international visibility of the institutions will be increased, as it happened in other parts of Europe (ie Scotland, where all university hospitals are grouped together) or America (ie in Boston, where various hospitals are all grouped together in a cluster under Harvard university).

Are there other similar initiatives but more globally oriented?

In England, there is a "platform of platforms" (the National Institute for Health Research- Clinical Research Network), which brings together 15 regional platforms such as the BCTP, which in six years has recruited nearly 100,000 patients. In Catalonia, in the last three years, we have recruited an average of 4,500 patients per year, which is a good number.

Currently, what institutions are part of the BCTP?

The Jordi Gol University Institute for Research in Primary Care (IDIAP Jordi Gol) and 7 research institutes mostly from major university hospitals: Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR), Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO ), August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), Germans Trias i Pujol Health Sciences Research Institute (IGTP), Institute Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and San Pau Biomedical Research Institute (IIBSP).

How will the members of the platform be involved?

Members will be involved in optimizing, standardizing, coordinating and integrating clinical research processes and promoting the joint human and technology potential. BCPT members will share information from the clinical trials carried out in their scope so that the maximum possible number of patients benefit from the research outcomes obtained.

Who will specifically benefit from this initiative?

The integration of clinical research into medical practice will benefit the patient first and foremost, who, in turn, will receive the best treatment available at the right time. The health system will benefit from the initiative so that all synergies with pharmaceutical companies are utilised, providing them easy access to both clinical research professionals and patients. Finally, hospital institutes will also benefit through the stimulation of translational research.

What stage is the project currently at?

We have completed the conceptualization phase and are now at the point of pulling up resources, both public and private, to start working. Furthermore, we are also studying the feasibility of undertaking a pilot project involving precision oncology involving molecular characterization of all patients diagnosed with certain cancers to optimize their allocation to available therapies, whether marketed or experimental drugs.