New initiative will calculate carbon footprint of clinical trials

The new methodology will assess the carbon impact of clinical trials and recommend ways to reduce it.

Illustration of business person balancing CO2 and tree - carbon emissions

The Pistoia Alliance, a non-profit advocating R&D collaboration in life sciences, has launched the Clinical Trials Environmental Impact Community of Interest (CoI), a collaborative initiative that aims to calculate the carbon footprint of centralised and decentralised clinical trials, enabling a standard that companies can use to calculate a clinical trial’s carbon impact.

The analysis is intended to help companies reduce the impact their research has on the environment. Data will identify the CO₂ emissions created during travel, the sources of energy used and what consumables were employed throughout the clinical development process.

First, the community of interest will confirm what variables will be measured relating to a trial’s carbon impact. The second phase involves developing a methodology to calculate the carbon footprint and offer a benchmark for calculating carbon impact of a trial. This methodology will be publicly available.

The Col liaises with the Sustainable Health Coalition (SHC) to support its work with the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI).

Representatives from the top 10 pharma companies, contract research organisations (CROs) and academia in Japan, the US and Europe are part of the community of interest. These members are AbbVie, Bayer, GSK, BMS, J&J, Merck, Novartis, Novo and Syneos Health.

Centralised clinical trials often take place in multiple locations in order to assemble the participants and data required to obtain conclusive results. This is especially burdensome for centralised trials which necessitate in-person activities.

On the other hand, “decentralised trials reduce the burden on the patient and ensure trials are far more patient centric,” noted Thierry Escudier, Strategic Leader for Empowering the Patient at Pistoia Alliance.

“Whilst quantifying money and time saved is relatively straightforward, accurately measuring the carbon saving requires a more detailed approach to produce a standard that can be used by all stakeholders – from sponsors to CROs to technology vendors,” he added.

“Shared frameworks have to be created to allow individuals and companies to be efficient and effective in quantifying the impact of their own clinical trials against an industry-wide standard,” remarked Dr Bert Hartog, Clinical Innovation Senior Director at Janssen.

The Alliance considers that the methodology will need contribution from experts in both the life sciences and sustainability, particularly as research shows the life sciences sector can expect future legislation will control how pharmaceutical and research firms operate, including how they measure and report on their environmental impact.

To engage the industry and ensure the transition is smooth, Pistoia Alliance sees that a joint effort in the assessment of a trial’s carbon impact is a vital first step.