Making Clinical Trials More Diverse: Michele Andrasik on The Long Run

Today’s guest on The Long Run is Michele Andrasik.

I’m excited to have Michele on the show to talk about an undercovered aspect of the scientific enterprise.

Michele Andrasik, PhD. Director, Social & Behavioral Sciences and Community Engagement
HIV Vaccine Trials Network; Affiliate Assistant Professor, Global Health, University of Washington

Michele is the director of social and behavioral science and community engagement for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, and COVID-19 Prevention Network.

She’s based in Seattle at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and is an affiliate professor at the University of Washington.

Michele’s work at the HIV Vaccine Trials Network has made her think long and hard about bridging the gap between science and the society it hopes to serve. She’s worked for years on outreach to disadvantaged and marginalized groups that scientists were hoping to enroll in HIV studies for vaccines and treatments.

When COVID-19 hit, this group was uniquely positioned for the moment.

Tony Fauci called on this NIH-funded national network to spring into action, bringing all the learned from HIV to the COVID vaccine trials. One of the underreported successes of Operation Warp Speed was that the pivotal vaccine studies were able to enroll black people, indigenous peoples, and people of color at levels roughly in line with their representation in the overall population.

If you listen to Michele, I think you’ll hear some basic principles that can be applied broadly across the biopharma industry. Everyone can agree it’s desirable to make clinical trials faster and more predictive of outcomes in the real world. Part of getting there means getting better at including traditionally hesitant groups to participate.

When more people get personally involved with science, if it’s done right, it can help with downstream issues like equitable access and distribution of therapies.

It’s a crucial first step in building trust.

For those want to dig in to the diversity of the Operation Warp Speed clinical trials, I suggest you read a paper by Michele published in October 2021 in PLoS One. Michele also co-authored a paper last July in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy in BIPOC Communities — Toward Trustworthiness, Partnership, and Reciprocity.”

Please join me and Michele Andrasik on The Long Run.

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