Staying in the Spotlight After the Storm Has Passed

Paul Evans, PhD, President and CEO, Velocity Clinical Research

Clinical Researcher—December 2020 (Volume 34, Issue 10)


Paul Evans, PhD


“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” – Charles Darwin

Scholars are still debating whether Darwin actually said this, or if it was said later by someone interpreting Darwin’s work. Either way, I think 2020 has shown there’s strong evidence to support the idea.

As this challenging year winds down, I’m reflecting, like many of you I suspect, on what we’ve collectively endured and how it has impacted us. My reflections are also tinged with a touch of wistfulness as I step down as Chair of ACRP’s Association Board of Trustees at the end of this month.

Elsewhere in the virtual pages of this month’s Clinical Researcher, ACRP Executive Director Jim Kremidas quotes my countryman Charles Dickens’ famous line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” to summarize 2020. Certainly, the worst of times, as it were, have been on full display in the U.S., where we’ve recently passed 300,000 COVID-19 deaths. However, I’d like to focus more of my final column on the positives we’ve seen this year, starting with the heroic work of the clinical trial workforce.

The pandemic may have provided many challenges to us all, but we as an industry have never been more in the spotlight. Our contributions to the fastest development of a vaccine on record put us right in the public eye in a very positive light. As I’ve noted in earlier columns, as an industry we need to build on that and make sure we encourage the general public to remain interested and engaged in drug research and not revert back to our normal secretive ways. Silos are so 2019!

The nightmare of COVID-19 has also showed us the dreamwork of teamwork. If the coronavirus vaccine development demonstrated one thing, it is what can be achieved when we all act with a unity of purpose toward achieving a single goal. Before this public health crisis, too much of drug research felt like everybody working against one another; COVID-19 changed that in 2020, and I fervently hope we retain that spirit of cooperation in 2021 and beyond.

Keeping on Track (with Pivots)

The mission of ACRP has never been more critical. Good research requires good people, and our mission is to support the development of the people who deliver new drugs (protecting patients as a result) and to encourage new people to enter our industry.

Like it has on everyone and everything else, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on your Association. As a team, we had to pivot and adapt in a number of areas. For example, we had to cancel our annual meeting scheduled for Seattle in April. Each year the meeting is an exciting way to recharge batteries, swap ideas, renew acquaintances—not to mention its significant financial importance to ACRP. Well, COVID-19 took all that from us.

So, Jim Kremidas, Bridget Gonzales, director of training and professional development, and others at ACRP pulled together and learned on the fly how to prepare and conduct virtual meetings to help defray some of that loss financially and educationally. I participated in some of the meetings and viewed a large portion of them, and I was very impressed with the end product. I heard from many of you members, too, remarking on the quality of the sessions, the moderation by Editor-in-Chief Michael Causey, and the overall production.

Kevin McCourt, ACRP’s chief operating officer, spearheaded the rapid and successful application for a Payment Protection Program loan earlier this year to support ACRP’s finances. We received the loan, which helped us avoid making any cuts in staff or product offerings. I can also happily report that the loan was recently forgiven because we honored the terms it set. Kudos to Kevin and team for securing such a timely fiscal shot in the arm for your Association.

I’d also like to salute the other ACRP board members I had the chance to work with this year. Again, COVID-19 changed the nature of our interactions—for example, we had to pivot from in-person meetings to Zoom and phone meetings. Throughout the difficult transition, I was impressed with the intelligence and consistently professional conduct of my colleagues. I thank each of them for their valuable contribution to ACRP and the broader clinical trial mission.

Better Days Ahead

Thanks to this amazing industry, vaccines are on the way to help us defeat COVID-19. I know this has been a difficult year, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and I hope everybody has the best possible holiday season.

It was an honor and a privilege to be able to serve the membership this year as Chair. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity.

Paul Evans, PhD, is President and CEO of Velocity Clinical Research and Chair of the Association Board of Trustees for ACRP in 2020.