Ecraid was built around the concept of 'warm-base' networks: a novel approach to doing clinical research that increases the speed, efficiency, and quality of trials. Our inaugural white paper lays out the principles of warm-base networks, as well as their advantages over traditional site selection. It also provides practical advice on how to set up such a network and offers a concrete example of an existing one, Ecraid’s hospital network CLIN-Net.
This resource can be useful to those who conduct multi-centre clinical research themselves, as well as to anyone with a vested interest in finding the most suitable sites for their trial faster and more efficiently.
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In clinical research, sites are often chosen for a trial on an ad hoc basis, resulting in longer set-up times, higher costs and suboptimal match between sites' capabilities and a trial's needs.
Rather than a temporary collaboration, a warm-base network is a permanent infrastructure in which trial sites with a common focus are engaged in recruiting patients in one or more clinical studies on a continuous basis. It is supported by a coordinating team which uses its deep knowledge of the sites’ capabilities and experience to match each study with the sites that best fit its needs.
The warm-base network approach is the beating heart of Ecraid – a non-profit foundation that advances clinical research in the field of infectious diseases. We rely on a vast pan-European network of hospitals, laboratories, primary care sites, paediatric care sites and long-term care facilities to deliver state-of-the-art clinical research services to public and private partners.
Established under the EU-funded COMBACTE and PREPARE projects, our hospital network CLIN-Net spans over 1,250 clinical sites across 42 European countries. From regular hospital wards to emergency rooms to intensive care units, CLIN-Net offers access to a unique clinical research infrastructure that has enrolled over 52,000 patients in 48 studies.
LAB-Net counts more than 900 microbiology laboratories in 41 countries coordinated by a central laboratory at the University of Antwerp. Next to fast, efficient, and high-quality matching of studies with the best-fitting laboratories, it can handle all necessary logistics, analyses, and reporting. LAB-Net also offers assistance with diagnostic test development and biobanking, providing access to a repository of more than 141,000 specimens and 11,600 strains.
The coordination of Ecraid's network is supported by the EU-funded project ECRAID-Base.
Why is it important for a warm-base network to encompass as a wide geographical area as possible? Why is this approach particularly beneficial for research during outbreaks and pandemics? And can a single study resemble a warm-base network?
LAB-Net: Ecraid's warm-base laboratory network
Comprising over 900 microbiology laboratories across Europe, the network is coordinated by a team of experienced scientists who provides expert advice and services. Next to fast and efficient matching of studies with the best-fitting laboratories, the team can handle all necessary logistics, analyses, and reporting.
The importance of pan-Еuropean coverage in infectious diseases research
Western and Northern Europe have traditionally been at the forefront of clinical trial efforts. However, the need for pan-European coverage in clinical research has become increasingly evident. In this article, we argue that access to a more diverse range of patients, pathogens, and expertise can improve research outcomes.
High-quality research sites
Research sites have various strengths and weaknesses relative to the context of a specific clinical research project. Still, there are general characteristics which set some sites apart from the rest. Here, we explore these criteria and explain why in-depth knowledge of the available sites is key for a clinical trial's success.
The ECRAID-Base project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 965313.