How the Shape of Clinical Trials is Changing

The Belgian division of the French Group Cerba Healthcare is known as Cerba Research. The company supports the entire logistics chain and facilitates lab tests and clinical studies.

Joachim Vandroemme, Lab Manager, and CIO Peter Vermeylen explain current developments in this market and what the future may bring.

Some of Cerba Research’s client base includes reputable pharmaceutical companies, some of whom may not be known not known to the general public. The organization in Ghent can offer added value to companies who choose to join forces with Cerba Research.

“Pharmaceutical companies may have testing capabilities, but the entire logistics process that surrounds it is our specialty,” notes Peter Vermeylen. “For example, how can you distribute sample kits quickly, efficiently and without issues? That’s what we are perfectly suited to do.

“We gather all the materials needed to collect samples and deliver them neatly in kits. We also process and prepare all the patient data paperwork. Once all the data has been received, we order lab tests, in our own labs or through partners. The results are then made available to the client via PDFs and our electronic portal.”

Joachim underlines how Cerba Research can also provide scientific expertise. “While setting up the studies, we work closely together with our customers. How are we going to define the test? How are we going to set it up? Which markers are we going to detect? We play a role in that as well.”

Peter notes that over the years, the scope of these studies has become increasingly complex.

“Five years ago, all patients in a study received the same tests. As we are evolving towards a ‘personalized medicine’, this has become almost a hundred individual courses. Based on the results, the tests are continuously adjusted which makes it far more challenging.”

The interaction between the lab tests and treatment has steadily increased. There is now a direct line of feedback between them. The patient used to be a homogeneous group for the industry. Nowadays it’s different. Take the COVID-19 tests, for example, where a distinction is made between different subpopulations. Not only by gender, but also whether someone has diabetes.

Joachim Vandroemme, Lab Manager, Cerba Research

Peter states that Cerba Research’s role itself is also changing. “Depending on which technology is needed, we will outsource studies with tests to different parties. This will allow us to become a kind of “broker” of data. Like in many other industries, the importance of data and data processing took off in pharma. By definition, patient data is very sensitive. It is therefore of the utmost importance to handle it with care. Respecting patients’ privacy is key to us.”

New applications that could only have been dreamed of in the past have now become possible as a result of the enormous amount of data that can be accessed nowadays. Topics such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence come quickly to mind.

Right, that has caused an enormous revolution. In our lab in Montpellier, France, we work primarily with medical imaging. Until a few years ago, tissue samples were viewed on glass slats. Now they are processed digitally, which means you can make use of algorithms that will aid in diagnoses.

Peter Vermeylen, CIO, Cerba Research

Joachim resolutely states that the role of the laboratory technician is far from over despite the enormous leaps taken in AI and IT. “Of course, technology will become more prominent, but primarily to support the physician. The role of the physician remains crucial in interpreting data.”

“What if, as a patient, you are the exception of the rule that doesn’t follow the set algorithm? It can have very undesirable consequences. That is why human verification will remain the norm for a while. At the same time, laboratories will look very different in the future than they do now.”

“Think, for example, of all the developments in lab testing on chips or in Point of Care testing, in which doctors will increasingly carry out tests themselves. Finally, I also see an explosion of biomarkers in the future, on top of all the classic ones we already know. All this combined means that I, as a lab rat, don’t feel threatened yet”.

About Cerba Research

For over 35 years, Cerba Research has been setting the industry standard for exemplary clinical trial conduct. Today, across five continents, with a focus on precision medicine, we are changing the paradigm of the central lab’s role in complex clinical research.

From protocol inception through development and to market, our passionate experts deliver the highest quality specialized and personalized laboratory and diagnostic solutions. Partner with us for the most efficient strategy to actualize your biotech and pharmaceutical products sooner and improve the lives of patients worldwide.


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Last updated: Apr 11, 2023 at 8:04 AM

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