Seeking to bring clinical trials and innovations in medicine even closer to home, Atlantic Health System, parent company of Morristown 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 in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  

In addition to Atlantic Health System, other founding members of PIER Consortium include Drexel University and Einstein Healthcare Network, Geisinger, which includes 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—and sometimes across the country—for novel treatment. The PIER Consortium will bring clinical trial sites to a larger number of patients, while also bringing new treatments to the market with more speed.

“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 at 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,” Whellan said.

An estimated 80 percent of clinical trials fail to finish in the time allotted. Having contracts in place and physicians identified could allow trials to both start on time 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,” Whellan said.