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Clinical trial diversity in the Covid-19 era — are we seeing a paradigm shift?

The recent spate of Covid-19 trials has put a bright spotlight on diversity, or the lack of it, in many drug studies. Trial sponsors have taken note and we're seeing a major shift toward requiring greater diversity. What are the challenges and where are the opportunities?

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Camille Hertzka

Camille Hertzka

Vice President, Head of Medical Affairs, US Oncology at AstraZeneca

As the Medical Head of US Oncology, Camille Hertzka leads the teams responsible for the development and delivery of the medical strategy across AstraZeneca’s US oncology portfolio. She is a leading voice both within Medical Affairs and the company for inclusion and diversity efforts focused on health equity, access to care, and clinical trial participation.

A scientist by training, Camille has more than 15 years of industry experience in the oncology space both in Medical Affairs and Research & Development. She previously served as Global Product Leader for LYNPARZA, Head of Oncology Medical for Europe, and Head of Oncology Medical for International. Prior to AstraZeneca, Camille worked at BMS, leading medical affairs activities in melanoma and GU cancers for the European region. She also worked at Roche, focusing on lung cancer, brain tumors and GU cancers in France.

Dr. Raolat Abdulai

Dr. Raolat Abdulai

Global Clinical Lead, Immunology & Inflammation Therapeutic Area, Sanofi

Raolat Abdulai, MD, MMSc holds the role of Global Clinical Lead in the Immuno-Inflammation therapeutic area in R&D at Sanofi. In her position, she serves as the clinical strategic lead on projects with a focus of bringing transformational medicines to patients with severe immune-driven diseases. She is overseas multi-centre, multinational clinical trials from early to late phase 3 studies. In addition to her role in drug development, she works to advance digital health initiatives. This includes advancing technology in R&D that transforms the product life cycle for faster and more efficient clinical trials: integrating real world data to identify the right patient population, using analytics to drive new indications, and incorporating wearables and digital tools into clinical trials. In 2019, she was a featured panelist at the first ever MassBio Digital Health Impact Conference. She recently featured at the BIO 2020: Digital Health in Respiratory Care – The Next Frontier and at FierceAI Week 2020. Her particular area of interest is building a platform for digital health equity to ensure that the technological evolution of clinical trials leads to improved diversity in research and better health outcomes. Her personal project focusing on this area, TrialUp!, was chosen for the Harvard iLab Venture Incubation Program in 2016-17.

Dr. Abdulai emigrated to the United States at the age of five and grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. She attended medical school at nearby Howard University College of Medicine. She decided to pursue a career in medicine due to her own experience of growing up uninsured and watching loved ones suffer from untreated medical conditions. She was so impacted by these experiences that, while in medical school, Dr. Abdulai co-founded a free clinic to provide holistic quality care to the uninsured and underinsured local population, The New Freedmen’s Clinic. In 2009, Dr. Abdulai was featured in O! Oprah Magazine as one of 80 inspirational women entrepreneurs from around the country for the O! Oprah Magazine-White House Project Leadership Conference. She has been invited to the White House for President Obama’s Innovative Programs Summit which highlighted impactful social entrepreneurship programs across the country. In 2020, she was one of ten women honored with the Extraordinary Women Advancing Healthcare Award by The Commonwealth Institute in Massachusetts.

After medical school, she completed internal medicine training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and her Pulmonary and Critical Care fellowship training at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA. During her fellowship she earned a Master of Medical Science in Biomedical Informatics from Harvard Medical School. She is triple board certified (Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, and Critical Care Medicine) and continues to practice by volunteering at a Boston-based community health center where she treats patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Awny Farajallah, MD, FACP

Awny Farajallah, MD, FACP

Sr. Vice President, Medical Affairs North America, Ipsen

As a key North America Leadership Team and Global Medical Affairs Leadership Team member, Awny is responsible for providing strategic leadership and direction for all facets of our Medical Affairs organization in North America. Awny leads the efforts to enhance Medical Affairs capabilities with the goal of deepening our impact with patients through medical stakeholder partnerships across Oncology, Neuroscience and Rare Disease.

Awny has over 25 years combined experience in both academic and industry settings related to clinical research/development and medical affairs. Prior to joining Ipsen, he served as Vice President and Head of US Medical Affairs at BMS, where he was leading functions such as field medical, disease areas, medical education, biomarkers, promotional material review, portfolio strategy, and strategic collaborations across oncology, immunoscience, cardiovascular, neurology and mature brands.

Awny earned his MD from Cairo University and completed an internal medicine residency and infectious disease fellowship at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and New Jersey Medical School, respectively.

Jamie Freedman, MD, PhD

Jamie Freedman, MD, PhD

Senior Vice President, Head of U.S. Medical Affairs, Genentech

Dr. Jamie Freedman joined Genentech in August 2019 as Head of U.S. Medical Affairs. He joined us from AstraZeneca, where he held multiple leadership roles across Research & Development (R&D), Commercial and Medical Affairs — including President of AstraZeneca Canada, Executive Vice President of Oncology, and Head of Clinical Development at MedImmune (the company's biologics R&D division). During his tenure, Jamie advanced multiple molecules through development, approval and commercialization, and he had oversight of global and country-based Medical Affairs organizations. Prior to MedImmune, Jamie held senior leadership roles in Oncology R&D at GlaxoSmithKline and Merck, and he served as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Medical Officer at Locus Pharmaceuticals, a private biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of novel computationally designed drugs. Jamie also served as Executive Vice President of R&D and Business Development at OPKO Health, a US-based multinational biotech company specializing in vaccines and diagnostic products.

Jamie is board certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology. He has authored more than 20 peer-reviewed papers and holds three patents. He received his undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry at McGill University and earned his MD and PhD degrees at Tufts University. Jamie completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and completed his fellowships in Hematology and Oncology at Harvard University.

Kyle Blankenship

Kyle Blankenship

Managing Editor, Endpoints News

A native of Austin, Kyle previously worked as an associate editor at another leading biopharma publication and has held editor roles at two daily newspapers in Texas. In addition to a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, Kyle holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in Denton. At Endpoints, Kyle leads the company’s manufacturing coverage as well as running point on virtual events, editing and content strategy. An avid cook and history nerd, you can find Kyle hovering over the stove—spatula in one hand and a World War II tome in the other.