Q&A with Dr Clifford Banda, TDR Clinical Research and Development Fellow
Dr Clifford Banda has joined the WWARN team on a TDR, Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, Clinical Research and Development Fellowship. If you work in clinical trials, participate in Clifford’s survey.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career so far?
CB: I am a clinician by training. I completed my medical degree at University of Malawi’s College of Medicine in 2012 and my junior clinical attachments at a teaching hospital in Malawi in 2014. I was then awarded a one year research internship in malaria pharmaco-epidemiology at the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme (MLW). This allowed me to gain clinical trials experience by working on pharmacology related clinical trials. Between 2015 and 2016, I pursued an MSc in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and from there I applied for the TDR fellowship with support from my colleagues at MLW.
Why did you decide to pursue a TDR Fellowship?
CB: I found the TDR Fellowship to be a unique learning opportunity. The fellowship offers protected research time for researchers from low and middle income countries (LMICs) to focus on developing skills that are not readily available at their home institutes. Having gained experience in conducting pharmacological studies in a low resource setting, I wanted to better understand different aspects of data management from malaria clinical trials in LMICs, basic pharmacology principles and tools to improve the quality of data from pharmacological clinical trials, and to learn about how to conduct pooled analyses of data from clinical trials. This TDR fellowship offered me the opportunity to develop these skills to help improve clinical trials processes at MLW.
Tell us a little bit about your project.
CB: I’m focussed on improving the quality of data from malaria clinical trials in low resource settings. The aim of this project is to improve prospective standardisation of data by focusing on data collection and management within clinical trials. Supporting data standardisation and quality control tools, will improve overall data quality, making comparability of various studies across different regions easier over time and space. It will reduce the time spent standardising data when pooling data together from different clinical trials in order to monitor trends in antimalarial drug efficacy and resistance.
There are three aspects to this project. Firstly we would like to hear from researchers based at various institutes in LMICs on the types of tools/resources that they have and use to design and conduct malarial clinical trials, and also their needs in terms of tools and resources currently not available to them. Secondly, we will bring together a team of researchers focusing on different aspects of clinical trials (field/clinic, laboratory, data management etc.) to brainstorm on minimally acceptable tools and resources that a researcher in a low resource setting would need when setting up or conducting a malaria clinical trial. Finally, we will work with other partners such as The Global Health Network and Trial Forge to build a tools and resources platform as well as a malaria specific clinical trials pathway.
Why did you decide to undertake your project at WWARN?
CB: WWARN is a well-established, global data platform to conduct pooled individual patient level analyses, with robust standard operating procedures on data-sharing, data collation/ curation and large, complex meta-analyses. It also has an extensive network of malaria clinical trialists and a centre in South Africa that is affiliated to an institution which is conducting first-in-human antimalarial studies (University of Cape Town’s Collaborating Centre for Optimising Antimalarial Therapy). It was therefore a logical choice for my placement as it would offer me exposure to the skills that I wanted to gain from the fellowship.
You’re currently undertaking a survey of people working in clinical trials. What do you hope to achieve with this survey?
CB: I hope to understand the variation in tools and resources currently available and being used within malaria clinical trial teams in LMICs and the needs that junior investigators have in these settings. Results from this survey will in part help to inform appropriate interventions on how to improve data standards from clinical trials in malaria endemic settings. I encourage all researchers working in clinical trials in LMIC settings to complete the survey in order to help improve the usefulness and functionality of the toolkit.
What do you hope the end point of your project will be?
CB: I hope that we can create a toolkit with a clinical trials pathway for malaria and a platform of resources and tools that can easily be tapped into by malaria trialists in LMICs.
How do you anticipate you will use the skills you’ve learned through this Fellowship in the future?
CB: In the short-term, the skills gained will be beneficial in supporting clinical trials capacity in my home country with a particular focus on data management practices and improving conduct of pharmacological studies. In the long term, I aim to combine my clinical knowledge with the skills gained from this fellowship, to lead a robust pharmacological trials training programme within sub-Saharan Africa.
If you work in clinical trials, please take the time to participate in the survey.