LMC Manna Research, which provides Phase I-IV clinical trial services across 21 active research sites in Canada, recently expanded with the opening of two new locations in Ottawa and London Ontario.
The company has opened a location in London, Ontario specializing in NASH/NAFLD and liver disease research – following a push toward NASH/NAFL as new therapeutic areas of focus for many pharmaceutical companies, said Karri Venn, president of research at LMC Manna Research.
A partnership with hepatologist Dr. Paul Marotta, Venn told us the new location and additional expertise complements the company’s endocrinologist practices, as NASH/NAFL patients are treated by both specialists.
“Now, with access to EMR and big data, we can easily identify patients, engage the physician at a much faster pace, and allow for that opportunity to be improved, from an enrollment right through to a retention perspective, once you’re integrated with the physician,” Venn added.
“We’re making it easy not just for the patients but for the physicians,” she said, adding that Marotta’s waitlist as a specialist has gone from one year to one month.
“This is the first time you’re seeing a hepatologist within the community doing clinical research. His entire career has been spent within the hospital,” Venn explained. “We are excited to join forces with him to utilize his expertise and to then take on our infrastructure to give him that opportunity.”
Additionally, also added to its network is the Ottawa-based Greenbelt clinic, which, according to the company, is the first and only primary care research site in Eastern Ontario. The clinic includes 16 physicians, all of whom have joined the network to offer patients increased access to clinical trials.
“To have the entire practice see the benefit and be involved … we signed every single one of them up as a PI [principal investigator] or sub I [sub investigator] – and that’s unusual,” said Venn.
“So, we’re very excited purely by the volume of interest from the physicians and potential for patient access that we can now work with to enroll in various studies.”
Venn said the network has been working hard to bring on ‘meaningful relationships’ to help research get ‘off the ground.’
“That’s what we're really looking at with those two new sites,” she said.
Crossing borders and therapeutic areas
As for what comes next, Venn said she would like to see LMC Manna Research cross the border, expanding outside of Canada.
“If we continue to grow in Canada it will be in very specific therapeutic areas,” she said. “That continues to diversify our ability to manage the influx of studies in different therapeutic areas.”
The need to align with specialists also is among the reasons why the embedded or integrated research model is becoming more popular, Venn said, noting that the company has been working in this model for more than 20 years.
“I do see the value of aligning either with existing sites that are of similar nature to us, to continue to grow this model across border,” she added.
In line with this, the company is a founding partner of the site network hyperCore International, which Venn said was a ‘big step in the right direction’ to expose it to opportunities in the US.
Growth also may be driven inorganically through acquisition. Owned by private equity, Venn said “there’s always opportunities when you have that additional backing and support for us to continue to grow that model.”
The IRO model: An alternative avenue
The integrated research (IRO) model has made it easier for patients to enroll in clinical trials and for physicians to be involved, as it doesn’t disrupt their natural practice or workflow, said Venn, who expects adoption of this model to continue to grow.
“It’s well-known that startup timelines both in the contacts budget departments and/or ethics have not really allowed the academic institutions and hospitals that are conducting research to focus on building it to be competitive,” Venn explained.
“So, really, the physicians that work within the hospital that want access to clinical research studies are struggling with how to be stuck in this political system that’s not really functioning in a proper manner.”
LMC Manna Research is providing an opportunity to specialists who want to look at an ‘alternative avenue’ of doing research outside of a hospital – and has the opportunity to challenge the status quo of how traditional research and hospital institutions have existed, Venn said.
“We know that this changes the dynamic of how research exists here in Canada,” she added, “but we want to do it in a way that’s aligned with what the goals of the hospital are and not disrupting what those goals are but supplementing or providing additional support from a community setting.”