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Trial run: Queensland becoming 'guinea pig' state amid clinical testing boom


Queensland has emerged as “the Hollywood of the global clinical trial industry,” with a new online portal launched to help deal with demand.

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The new web-based one-stop-shop will be a gateway for global activity coming to Queensland as the international destination of choice for clinical trials.

Life Sciences Queensland Limited deputy chief executive Dr Nagaraj Gopisetty said Queensland’s appeal and capacity to undertake clinical trials had grown exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic.

The trials were being conducted statewide, with regional and rural centres expected to benefit. For the Gold Coast alone, trials are expected to be worth more than $33 million annually to the local economy over the next few years.

The portal would be critical in Queensland co-ordinating and dealing with interest as the capital of the global clinical trials map, Gopisetty said.

The portal – supported by Queensland Health, the Health Innovation Investment and Research Office, and the Queensland Clinical Trials Network, which is an initiative of Life Sciences Queensland Limited – links global organisations wanting to conduct clinical trials with research groups, public and private health care providers, universities, and manufacturers across the state.

“We have a lot more to offer, not just in the southeast corridor but across regional Queensland, and we can integrate that completely which is not possible in other states as effectively as here,” Gopisetty said.

“Queensland is leading the way in telehealth and we are much more networked with regional centres, so that makes us leaders in terms of utilising the regional and rural population and resources across the state in trials.”

While other sectors, such as the screen industry’s production of Hollywood blockbusters, are booming in Queensland, creating hundreds of local jobs and pumping millions of dollars into businesses and the local economy, Gopisetty said the clinical trials industry was having its own moment in the spotlight.

“Hollywood grabs the attention of a lot of people whereas clinical trials are a bit more niche, but things are happening,” he said.

“And there are job opportunities, this supports manufacturing, there’s so many things.

“You can see the broad breadth and span of what we are doing – we can do research and development, we can scale the products up, we can manufacture them for clinical trial readiness, we can deliver the clinical trials. We can do the whole end-to-end pipeline, all in Queensland.”

Gopisetty said the rise of Queensland as a global clinical trials hotspot was a combination of the state’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic that meant trials, including those involving people with compromised immune systems, could continue across the state while the majority across the country and internationally were shut down.

Queensland also boasted a diverse multicultural population that represented the global diaspora for international trials, effective biomedical manufacturing and supply chains, and quality hospital and regulatory systems so once trials were completed the data was accepted by leading global regulators like the US Food and Drug Administration or European Union.

Federal and state government incentives were key to attracting new trials, while the development of new science and the migration of highly-skilled people to Queensland meant the state was developing internationally renowned expertise.

“People have now recognised us as a better place to come and do trials,” Gopisetty said.

“It’s a lot of investment coming into Queensland, it’s engaging a lot of Queensland businesses, and it’s also developing a very niche, highly skilled labour force in the clinical trial sector that is globally recognised.”

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