Thursday 13 December 2012

Clinical trials in cystic fibrosis – time to up our game, by Janet Allen

On 11 December, Professors Alan Smyth and Simon Langton Hewer ran an innovative meeting on “Clinical trials in cystic fibrosis – time to up our game”. I went along and listened to the range of stimulating speakers talking about the value of clinical trials in advancing how we manage cystic fibrosis and the challenges of running multicentre trials, including the immense bureaucratic hurdles organisers have to jump.

But what marked this meeting out was less the interesting and important subject matter, and more the innovative way in which people could participate. About 80 people attended, physically seated in the auditorium, but the talks were streamed live on the internet allowing anyone with internet access to hear what they had to say. The panel of experts answered questions both from those in the auditorium and from the online audience.

Dr Matthew Hurley, Wellcome Fellow at the University of Nottingham organised the streaming. The Wellcome Trust has funded him to set up online conference streaming to allow people with cystic fibrosis, who would otherwise be unable to attend because of the risk of cross infection, to participate fully in this sort of event. Gilead also generously supported this “first”. There were some teething problems and the technology is still being developed, but the team worked hard on the day to sort the problems out and will continue their work to allow those with CF to participate fully in conferences about their condition.

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