Brandon Early is PRA Health Sciences’ Vice President for Project Delivery. He unquestionably has a unique and personal insight into clinical trials. This special knowledge is not just from the typical on-the-job experience of a professional that has worked his way up to vice president though. Early in his career, Brandon participated in his first clinical trial as a patient—a practice he continues to this day in an effort to personally help bring safe and effective treatments to more people. Learn a little more about Brandon and hear some of his thoughts on clinical development as he answers a few quick questions.
What is the biggest challenge you face today in our industry?
There’s a divide (in many therapeutic areas) between standard of care and clinical research. Trial endpoints don’t always create value for patients. We can build time into development planning to close this gap, making trials accessible to all patients by fitting them into their lifestyle and care plan.
Why did you become involved in clinical research? What sparked your interest?
I stumbled into it, really. I like science, and wanted to work in a lab. I landed in a lab doing translational research. This forum led to the realization that I could merge my passion for science with my passion for helping others and be able to see daily impact on patients’ lives.
In your experience, what has been the most important factor that has changed drug development?
I’m proud of how the industry has progressed knowledge of underlying disease biology and used that to target smaller subsets of patients where we can make a much bigger impact for those patients. We’ve unlocked the human genome to understand disease drivers on a more intimate level.
What is the biggest misconception people have about clinical trials?
The thinking that you are only a “guinea pig” without hope of therapeutic benefit. There are horror stories from testing in patients, such as the Tuskegee syphilis study and Jesse Gelsinger, that created additional safeguards for patients. We’ve learned from such failures. For many diseases, participation in a clinical trial is “standard of care” to ensure patients receive the most novel treatment paradigms.
What advice would you give to the next generation of researchers?
Focus on the big picture—do the right thing for the patient and the science. And make trials that impact the diverse world that is out there, not just for a small subset of patients based on geography, gender, race, etc.
How has clinical research affected your life personally?
It’s not only a career for me. I’ve participated in clinical trials, even as recently as late summer 2020 for a COVID-19 trial, and advocated for trials among friends and family.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, which would you choose?
Lighthearted, passionate, and motivated.
If you think back, at what point could you have chosen a different career path and what would it have been?
I originally wanted to go to medical school (though my current career choice is not a mistake—I feel I made the right decision).
What’s a fun fact about your childhood?
My family spent a lot of time playing pranks on each other.
If you were to write a self-help book, what would the topic be?
I haven’t thought about it, but it would most likely be about spending time outdoors, connecting with nature, valuing your family, and finding ways to balance your life by seeing the world around you.
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