Prestigious £1.7m Medical Research Council Fellowship for clinical trials scientist

A senior scientist with the University of Aberdeen has been awarded a significant fellowship from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to explore how to maximise the potential for behavioural science to improve how clinical trials are run.

Dr Katie Gillies, Director of the Health Care Assessment Programme, at the University’s Health Services Research Unit (HSRU), has been awarded a £1.7m Senior Non-Clinical Fellowship (SNCF) which will support three researchers and a PhD student over a period of five years.

The HSRU has a national remit to research the best ways to provide health care and to train those working in health services in research methods.

Clinical trials are the main scientific way to compare treatments in order to show which is better.  A ‘treatment‘ could mean a drug, or an operation, a device (e.g. a catheter) or a physical or psychological therapy.  Millions of patients take part in clinical trials globally every year – more than 7.4 million last year alone.  This significant contribution in number of participants required is matched by the significant contribution in terms of cost.

Dr Gillies explains: “Trials are expensive. The UK spent almost £100 million on trials during 2019-2020 just through the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.

“This proposed programme of research aims to develop methods to improve the conduct of clinical trials and will specifically look at how people’s behaviours, including what they do and how, affects their success.

“The research has the potential to generate a step-change in the way trial teams deliver clinical trials by addressing who needs to do what differently to whom, when and how. The promise of this research is the major improvements to trials from using better methods to design and conduct better trials for the millions of patients who participate every year.

“The receipt of this fellowship is significant because it provides resource to allow me and my team to focus on researching whether and how behavioural science can be used to maximise the delivery of clinical trials to enhance patient benefit. I am delighted to receive this fellowship and hope that it highlights the importance of trials methods research as a priority for future funding.”

Professor Marion Campbell, Vice-Principal Research at the University of Aberdeen, added:

“MRC Senior Non-Clinical Fellowships are awarded to outstanding individuals who are leading truly innovative research. My congratulations go to Dr Gillies whose achievement is testament to the strength of academic talent that exists here at the University.”

 Further information about the Research Fellow posts available can be found here. The posts close on Wednesday, 18 January.