New Partnership Between the University of Alberta and Roche Canada Seeks to Advance Clinical Research and Health Equity Through Roche's Clinical Trial Diversity Alliance

To help promote the inclusion of diverse patient groups in clinical trials, Roche Canada recently announced (in July 2023 press release) the creation of the Advancing Inclusive Research® Site Alliance. This alliance, comprised of research centers in regions with significant ethnically diverse populations, aims to advance health equality by addressing clinical trial recruitment, retention, and representation of diverse patient groups.

“Ultimately, by including diverse populations in our trials, we will truly develop medicines that are effective to all people,” – Barbara Zrinscak quoted from the original press release.

Formed with support from the University of Alberta, whose Clinical Trials Office (CTO) will be the first Canadian Site Alliance member, this initiative strives to enhance diversity and inclusion in clinical research by improving access to participation in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities. These efforts are expected to increase ethnic representation in clinical trials and allow companies to recruit sufficient patient numbers to run trials in niche areas such as rare disease research.


Why is this work Essential? Clinical trial participation and representation impact medical treatment efficacy.

With only 1%–3% of the eligible Canadian population participating in clinical trials, a lack of participation in clinical trials can lead to inaccurate representations of real-world demographics in clinical research, impacting the efficacy of medical treatment and advances. This has been apparent in fields such as cardiology, where the standard of care has been based on predominantly male audiences, making conditions such as heart attack and stroke more difficult to diagnose in women and the treatment regimens less effective. This in itself, has sparked research at the University of Calgary centered on recognizing and understanding the disparity when treating female versus male heart problems.  Still, this issue could have been avoided had more diverse clinical trial populations been used in primary interventional studies.

Another issue is that if not enough patients can be recruited for a clinical trial, the research program could be abandoned or moved to a denser jurisdiction – denying Canadians access to state-of-the-art innovative care, a common occurrence for clinical research in the rare disease space.

Positioning Alberta as a Leading Partner in the Clinical Trial Diversity Alliance Showcases the Province’s Strengths in Clinical Research 

As the first Canadian site alliance member, the U of A CTO office will collaborate across the provincial health network with critical partners, such as Alberta Health Services and regional hospitals, to identify and address barriers to clinical trial participation unique to the region. 

Although this isn’t any small feat, especially considering the challenge that Alberta must provide care over vast geographic distances, the fact that the province has established one single health authority, Alberta Health Services (AHS), makes the jurisdiction uniquely positioned to address barriers related to bringing care to underserved patient groups including, rural & remote communities, visible minorities, and Indigenous populations. And once running, this alliance will enable the province to enhance equitable access to care through clinical trials while building trust in new stakeholder groups.

“We are fully committed to increasing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in clinical trials and helping to drive cultural change within our research ecosystem, – Dr. Lawrence Richer, M.D., MSc. from the University of Alberta, as quoted in the original press release. 

Ultimately, Alberta’s strong presence in this alliance reinforces its leadership in healthcare innovation through its commitment to advancing clinical health research to provide inclusive and cutting-edge care for all Albertans.

Additional information can be found on Roche’s website – including the original press release which informed this post.