● Therapeutics Discovery and Phase 1 Clinical Trials Symposium sow seeds of International Collaboration

World-renowned clinicians and scientists from United States, Europe, China and the Arab World gathered in Riyadh in October for a two-day symposium at KAIMRC called Therapeutics Discovery: From Bench to First in Humans Trials. The conference was held at KAIMRC research facilities and presided by Dr Ahmad Alaskar, Executive Director of KAIMRC.  The meeting offered “a platform for exchange and collaboration between local and international researchers on therapeutics discovery and phase I clinical trials,” says conference chairman Mohamed Boudjelal, Head of KAIMRC’s Medical Research Core Facility and Platforms Department.

The conference started with a “pre-symposium” on October 10th. Invited speakers provided four training workshops related to drug discovery, clinical trials, biomedical research techniques and nanotechnology after which they toured KAIMRC’s research facilities including laboratories, the clinical translational unit and the Biobank. They met one-on-one with Saudi researchers to forge bridges for future collaborative work. The conference started on October 11th with an official opening ceremony. Day 1 of the symposium focused on Phase I trials, with an emphasis on the processes involved in planning and executing first-in-human clinical studies.

Academics from Europe, United Kingdom and the United States discussed various logistical issues, design aspects, and ethical dimensions of conducting early-stage first-in-human trials, while representatives from the pharmaceutical industry focused on the relevant economic and social aspects. Local leaders, including a representative of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, highlighted the opportunities and challenges of conducting Phase I clinical trials in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Two possible Saudi-based Phase I studies may soon be launched at KAIMRC and its affiliated hospitals: one for treating the virus responsible for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and another involving placental stem cells for altering immune signaling.

The second day was focused on presentations of the latest therapeutic discoveries from Saudi Arabia and around the world.

Meeting speakers included the leaders from the US-based Academic Drug Discovery Consortium, international Structural Genomics Consortium and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Institute of Materia Medica. These scientists were optimistic and offered their assistance to Saudi investigators to plan and conduct Phase I trials, and according to Dr Ahmad Alaskar, showing “a real willingness and readiness to open channels of collaboration and partnership with KAIMRC.”