MOH sets aside $35m to groom clinical research coordinators

Money will fund wages and training of support staff who make sure clinical trials run smoothly

When new medical treatments are still in the trial stage, it is often clinical research coordinators who make sure all goes according to plan.

They help to coordinate visits of patients in the trial, explain details to them, and make sure that all protocols are strictly followed.

Yesterday, the Health Ministry (MOH) announced that it is setting aside $35 million to help develop this pool of people.

The money will go towards funding the salaries of 100 clinical research coordinators over the next five years, said Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min.

It will also pay for national training and certification programmes for them.

Such research coordinators are important because they help doctors carry out "quality clinical research that meets international standards", Dr Lam said.

He added: "They play a key role in ensuring good patient recruitment, which is critical to the success of clinical trials."

At the Singapore Clinical Research Institute's (SCRI) annual scientific symposium yesterday, Dr Lam also launched the new SCRI Academy.

This is a virtual training academy for existing research coordinators who have less than one year's experience. The first programme is slated to start in March next year.

Associate Professor Teoh Yee Leong, who is chief executive of SCRI, said the new measures will help to give research coordinators more job stability.

"A lot of their salaries are traditionally paid by research grants," he said. "This way, they will have more stable careers."

The money will also help ensure that all research coordinators are able to explain clinical trials in simple, layman's terms to patients.

This is partly because trials are getting more complex, but also because many coordinators these days come in with a background in life sciences.

"In the earlier years, many research coordinators had a nursing background and were more familiar with medical terms," Dr Teoh said.

One of those who hope to attend a training course is Ms Tan Sili, who has been working as a clinical research coordinator for four months.

"Previously, I worked in a research lab, but I wanted more opportunities to interact with patients," said the 25-year-old, who has a background in biomedical sciences. "I think that the programme will help to enhance my knowledge."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2017, with the headline 'MOH sets aside $35m to groom clinical research coordinators'. Print Edition | Subscribe