PHILADELPHIA - Seeking to bring clinical trials and innovations in medicine even closer to home, Atlantic Health System, parent company of Summit's Overlook Medical Center, is now part of a group of six regional health systems that are founding members of a nonprofit clinical research consortium – Partners in Innovation, Education, and Research (PIER Consortium) – a streamlined clinical trial system that will span New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  

In addition to Atlantic Health System, other founding members of PIER Consortium include Drexel University, Einstein Healthcare Network, Geisinger including AtlantiCare, Main Line Health and Thomas Jefferson University.

“Research and innovation are among the key drivers of excellence and quality outcomes in patient care,” said Brian Gragnolati, president and CEO of Atlantic Health System. “Through the consortium, we are now able to move beyond geographic boundaries, expanding access to our own groundbreaking research while connecting our patients to exciting advancements from our PIER partners. This will have profound benefits for both researchers and patients.”

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Clinical trials have traditionally been offered at academic medical centers and through affiliated hospitals to ensure patients are treated safely and effectively with the best standard of care. Unfortunately for patients, this can mean traveling many miles, sometimes across the country, for novel treatment. The PIER Consortium will bring clinical trial sites to larger numbers of patients, while also bringing new treatments to market faster.

“The concept for creating a world-class, collaborative, clinical research network of regional health institutions began in 2013 with the arrival of Steve Klasko, as Jefferson’s President and Chief Executive Officer,” said David Whellan, MD, Senior Associate Provost for Clinical Research at Jefferson and Chief Operating Officer of PIER. “Our vision is to advance patient care in the moment and improve quality of life and outcomes in the future.”

The goal of having a broad network of physician-researchers is to speed up the clinical trial process and deliver effective therapies to patients sooner. “It can take decades to prove a medication or other treatment is safe and effective for a particular disease, which can be too late for many patients seeking treatment,” added Dr. Whellan.

An estimated 80 percent of clinical trials fail to finish on time. Having contracts in place and physicians identified could allow trials to both start and reach participation capacity more quickly. The expertise shared across sites through PIER will allow clinical researchers to enroll patients in trials more quickly, and streamline the clinical trial process across institutions. This will create a more effective process for patients, trial sponsors, and researchers.

“PIER offers turn-key solutions with one contract and a single Institutional Review Board (IRB). With physician champions at each site, start-up activities will be coordinated to help each site hit the ground running,” said Dr. Whellan.