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Fostering Sustainable Clinical Trials to Engage Patients

We’re planting seeds of change. Discover our dedication to making clinical trials more environmentally sustainable.

A circle of hands, each holding soil and a plant

Climate change, accelerated by the burning of fossil fuels, is one of the most significant long-term threats to planetary and human health. While the life sciences industry has contributed a great deal to extending human longevity and increasing quality of life, the emitted greenhouse gases required to power activities from clinical manufacturing to refrigeration, patient travel, clinical trial material distribution, waste disposal, and many other activities necessary to conduct traditional clinical trials, are negatively impacting the planet and thus human health.

The Sustainable Healthcare Coalition, a not-for-profit, health care sector-led group based in the United Kingdom, concluded that globally, clinical research could generate the equivalent of 100 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year. To put this figure into perspective, if the clinical research community were a country, its level of global emissions would rank 40th in the world, somewhere between the Netherlands and Kuwait.

While fostering sustainable clinical trials is a complex endeavor, it is an effort to which we are fully dedicated.

To reach this aggressive target, we are developing innovative clinical trial designs, collaborating with innovator clients and other life sciences industry stakeholders, and engaging patients.

Our Four-Pillar Sustainable Clinical Trials Strategy

To reach our environmental footprint goals within clinical research, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s PPD clinical research business is focusing on four pillars. The first is to develop models that predict the CO2 emissions of a clinical study before patient recruitment begins. These models will provide insights into all sources of carbon emissions, with the initial focus on the most significant sources.

Around a third of the carbon emitted throughout the execution of traditional clinical trials results from patients traveling, sometimes over 100 miles. By creating near-patient solutions, PPD® Digital and Decentralized solutions are particularly critical in helping reduce patient travel and the resulting emissions. Recently we found that some at-home solutions can reduce emissions by up to 30%, even including emissions from shipping.

Second, we are working to establish methods to analyze the actual emissions from clinical trials as they are underway, and report the data and resulting recommendations to sponsors and other stakeholders. These results can then be used to enhance the accuracy of the predictive model. Third, modeling and analysis capabilities are used to identify opportunities to reduce emissions and design sustainability into clinical trial protocols from the outset. For instance, we can often use technology to enable remote monitoring visits or allow patients to connect with study personnel for assessments at home rather than traveling to a clinical site.

Finally, the fourth pillar strives to increase awareness and engage stakeholders across the clinical research value chain, including patients. A key initiative supporting this pillar is our new initiative: One Patient, One Tree.

One Patient, One Tree

One tree planted for every patient enrolled in a PPD clinical site is a tangible act that helps stakeholders feel connected to our efforts in fostering sustainable clinical trials.

Alongside the patients enrolled in our clinical trials, we will work to improve our planet’s health and raise awareness for environmental sustainability. Specifically, the One Patient, One Tree initiative will plant a tree for every patient enrolled in a PPD site, helping to reduce urban heat islands, creating agricultural employment opportunities and rebuilding protective coastal mangroves.

The One Patient, One Tree initiative will create a healthier planet and remind everyone across the clinical trial life cycle, including patients, that we must work together to create a better world for future generations.

Toward Sustainable Clinical Trials

Every day, the PPD clinical research business of Thermo Fisher Scientific is guided by the mission of helping our customers make the world healthier, cleaner, and safer. As patient and planet health are inextricably linked, we are fully dedicated to increasing clinical trial design and execution sustainability and engaging patients in the process.

An increasing number of leading life sciences organizations have committed to adopting practices across their organizations — from research and development, clinical trials, manufacturing, distribution, and drug disposal — that strive to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. Our commitment to sustainability is critical to supporting these organizations’ sustainability commitments during their clinical trials, a historically resource-intensive phase of the drug development process.

The PPD clinical research team is energized by the One Patient, One Tree initiative and developing ways to conduct more sustainable clinical trials. We look forward to partnering with stakeholders across the industry to ensure that sustainably produced therapeutics are available to all who need them.

We’re planting seeds of change. Learn more about our dedication to making clinical trials more environmentally sustainable.

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