Blog: Three things I learned at the PCMG 2022 assembly – “The ‘I’ of the Storm”

By Bruce Hellman
Chief Patient Officer and Co-Founder of uMotif


After a break of over 3 years, it was energizing and exciting to be back at the Pharmaceutical Contract Management Group (PCMG) annual assembly, this year held in Krakow, Poland. PCMG is a unique event – a single track of sessions, no vendor booths, and a real focus on sharing knowledge among all delegates. It makes for a rather special few days, with sponsors, CROs, tech vendors, and others coming together to debate key trends around clinical trials.

Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and other global events, the assembly theme looked at how each of us working in life sciences can make an impact, drive towards the future and make an impact through these uncertain times.

Three key things I learned from the assembly

The drive for “Decentralization” of all trials is waning

Decentralization of clinical trials (DCT) has been a major industry theme, driven by Covid lockdowns. Over recent years there has been a need to keep trials running by taking them to patients, where traditional sites have been closed. While there have been important successes with DCT approaches, there is a growing appreciation that decentralization is not always the best, right or only approach.

The assembly included a panel discussion around DCT, their current adoption, and how they will be viewed in the future. The audience and panelists agreed that decentralization is certainly a part of today’s and tomorrow’s trials and can deliver benefits, particularly where site visits are not possible.

However, I was pleased to learn that like us at uMotif, many sponsors and CROs are moving to a much more patient and person-centered approach to trial design and delivery. Instead of putting technology and DCT first, sponsors are taking a pragmatic approach to the design of studies, using the best solutions for each study and the patient population. I believe this will be a fundamental part of the most successful studies, where we first start with the patients involved and aim to provide them with the best experience using tech where it best fits.

It was a really interesting debate, and good to hear the speakers sharing some frank views about how to enhance clinical trials.

We all need to get to Net Zero

On to day two, where Professor Hugh Montgomery gave a passionate, informative, and quite worrying presentation about climate change and the serious impacts it’s having on our world. We learned about the effects of the warming globe, and how the broad healthcare industry has a major role to play in reducing carbon emissions.

Following Professor Montgomery’s presentation, workshops focused on sustainability and the increasing drive for our industry to reach Net Zero carbon emissions. I was delighted to be part of the organizing group for an insightful session with GSKVeramed, and Earthly on how companies are adopting science-based targets to reach Net Zero and measuring their impact.

The key message: we all have an impact on reducing carbon emissions. Measuring and reporting on emissions is going to become a normal part of good business practice from large pharma (see GSK’s targets) to small suppliers. Reporting on Net Zero will feature in RFP processes, along with likely new contractual agreements in MSAs. Many cross-industry groups are coordinating on how best to measure and report in life sciences, to ensure that activities undertaken are robust and scientifically demonstrate real impact. The session was a great way to share experiences, and I felt that delegates from across the industry were keen on driving change.

I also learned of a new way of running workshops through Silent Seminar headphones – it’s a great way to run parallel sessions in a large conference room!

Talent is out there

People are key to all aspects of designing, delivering, and reporting on clinical trials. A constant theme over many years has been the perceived lack of talent coming into the industry, and the need to hire across the clinical trial ecosystem.

A number of sessions discussed how to bring more people into the industry and highlighted the issue of site staff often being recruited by CROs and sponsors, reducing the talent pool at sites. There were some strong calls to bring more graduates and junior people into the industry, which can offer an exciting career path, with positive impacts on people’s lives. We’ve seen first-hand at uMotif that recruiting graduate and early career members of staff is an excellent way to bring new talent into the organization. So, I’m hoping to hear in the future of more schemes to recruit new graduates.

The mix of sessions, alongside learnings from the automotive industry, and exploring the wider economic environment, made for another great PCMG assembly. I’m looking forward to next year’s event – I wonder how far the industry will move this year towards patient-centric and carbon-neutral studies?