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Case study: Reinvigorating the commercial research portfolio at UHB

How the Trust has supported positive engagement with Industry

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) has recently reduced study setup times by 55% overall in 2022/23 compared to 2021/22, and achieved a median of 55.5 working days to open commercial and non-commercial studies.  In addition this work has led to an improvement in Recruitment to Time and Target from a forecast 27% pass to an end of year actual 57% pass.  

How was this achieved?

The new Head of Research Governance (Dr Sarah Pountain) led a change to reinvigorate UHB’s commercial portfolio following the Trust merger, post-Covid research and with the need for transparent and efficient processes for both internal and external partners.  

Amy Smith (pictured) was appointed as Commercial Research Manager and was tasked with supporting positive engagement with commercial companies, and improving study setup and delivery;  a listening exercise was undertaken and feedback from industry partners identified:

- The need to reduce setup times, supporting the UK to remain competitive and appealing for selection by global pharma teams.  

Action: UHB reviewed its setup processes and sought to compare and align them with Industry, ensuring delays were minimised. The Trust has approximately 250 studies in various stages of Assess, Arrange or Confirm at any time, so EDGE and PowerBI were deployed to provide greater oversight and enable better performance management of the process.

- The need to speed up contracting/ budget negotiations

Action: UHB has aligned with the national process and implemented the mandatory use of the Health Research Authority recommended Financial Agreement since October 2022, this has significantly reduced review periods, enabling setup times to be reduced. 

In addition, there is performance monitoring of the process, studies are identified where the CRO/ sponsor is not yet ready to proceed and those discussions are held, ensuring they are progressed at a more appropriate time. This has all supported the number of studies in active negotiation to be reduced by two thirds.

UHB is widening the implementation, with training and support, of the national processes.  In addition, the Trust is leading a review of the national tariff across the region, working with the CRN and other local Trusts, with the aim of supporting the development and adoption of a standardised regional model.

- The need to better communicate with external partners, providing a clear point of contact 

Action: A suite of tools was developed to help explain our internal processes to external partners, such as study setup.  These tools are shared with partners to explain the process, including hints and tips on navigating it successfully. 

Additionally, the Commercial Research Manager offers regular meetings and a route of escalation, providing support in familiarising with local processes, unblocking of barriers and general support  wayfinding across the organisation.  Alternatively directing to other suitable local organisations, with the aim of increasing research opportunities across the geography for local patients.

These improvements have supported recent successes including:

- A sponsor with a high priority study was initially not minded to select UHB, but this changed following discussions and UHB was the first site to open in the UK and to consent patients

- UHB was the first site in the UK to open a mRNA cancer vaccine trial for colorectal cancer

- First UK patients recruited to several CAR-T studies

- First patient in Europe, Middle East and Africa recruited to a Phase 2 lymphoma study

UHB continues to work hard to support turning the tide of commercial research in the UK and is 
looking to actively engage with Industry partners. Please contact for further information.