Mark Sorrentino, VP, Center for Pediatric Clinical Development, Scientific Affairs can be described as a “big kid superhero.” He’s passionate about making clinical trials fit for pediatric patients.
Of course, there’s a lot more to Mark than his passion! For instance, he’s the director of the Pediatric Collaboration team. Mark leads quite a super life—he’s flown airplanes, managed bands, volunteered at tornado clean ups, and more. Learn about our very own superhero below.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge you face today in our industry?
Generating interest, both from the public and Industry, in pediatric research continues to be our biggest challenge. About 70% of the drugs used in the pediatric populations are used off-label. Most have never been through any randomized trials. This paradigm must change.
Why did you become involved in clinical research? What sparked your interest?
When I worked in a PICU as an Attending Physician, I had the opportunity to work on a few groundbreaking clinical trials. I was eventually offered a position to help launch the first monoclonal antibody for an infectious disease, and I couldn’t turn it down.
Our drug saved the lives of tens of thousands of premature babies and infants worldwide. It was exciting to see the change we made on the epidemiology of a devastating disease. I was hooked.
In your experience, what’s the most important factor that has changed drug development?
A giant leap forward is the ability to access study participants remotely, allowing many more families (children/caregivers in the case of pediatric research) to have access to important, innovative trials.
For example, being able to send a research nurse to a child’s school for a blood draw, or to the child’s home for drug administration, or allowing the child/caregiver to enter a PRO on a mobile health platform breaks down many barriers to participation. It puts us a step closer to including research as a treatment option.
What is the biggest misconception people have about clinical trials?
I think most people believe medical research somehow treats them by placing them in a locked facility and doing terrible things to them. Only recently, thanks to groups like CISCRP, has the public has received better education about what to expect if they participate in research.
What advice would you give to the next generation of researchers?
Flexibility will be key in the future. Traditional phase I-III/IV studies are going to become much more pragmatic. Participants will be completing many assessments at home using various technologies and wearables. It will be up to a new generation of researchers to embrace new ways of capturing data and including patients in trials.
How has clinical research affected your life personally?
Most importantly, it has allowed me to work with so many brilliant colleagues within healthcare and all over the world. I have had the opportunity to see hospitals and healthcare systems from the US to Israel to South Africa, and many places in between. I’m just amazed to meet so many great researchers dedicated to the health and well-being of children.
I’ve also learned so much about so many diverse diseases; more than I ever would have seen in practice. Lastly, while I often miss bedside care and the pace of the PICU, I feel like I have a hand in developing innovative and much-needed medicines for many children.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, which would you choose?
Well-rounded, prepared, outgoing.
If you think back, at what point could you have chosen a different career path and what would it have been?
I was accepted into the Air Force Academy- my dream at the time was to become a pilot. My neighbor was one of the top aerobatic pilots in the world. During high school I had the opportunity to fly with him. He even taught me to fly the biplane he owned and do a few simple tricks!
What’s a fun fact about your childhood?
I managed and played drums in my brother’s band. We even played on TV a few times and had Kenny Rogers’ manager promoting us.
If you were to write a self-help book, what would the topic be?
How to prepare you and your family for a natural or man-made disaster!
What was the last trip you took and why?
I was in Nashville on the day the SEC college basketball tournament was cancelled. I was there for a meeting with a PRA vendor, and spent a day volunteering with Lynlee Burton, Executive Director of Therapeutic Expertise, Scientific Affairs, Therapeutic Expertise. I also helped with the devastating tornado clean-up at the edge of the city.
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