The Australian Clinical Trials Education Centre (A-CTEC) is building the capacity and capability of Australia’s clinical trials workforce by providing interactive clinical trials education opportunities suitable for a range of learning needs, at no cost to the end user.

In so doing, it has overcome key barriers to education and training, such as cost and access, which have prevented wider clinical trials upskilling, especially in regional, rural and remote areas.

A large-scale collaborative initiative in response to health service need, the initial funding and support for A-CTEC was provided by Victoria’s Research Translation Centres – Melbourne Academic Centre for Health, Monash Partners Academic Health Science Centre and Western Alliance Academic Health Science Centre.

The national AHRA collaborative model, transcending State and Territory boundaries, facilitated its scale-up to benefit the broader Australian research community.

The genesis of A-CTEC lies with the Parkville Cancer Clinical Trials Unit (PCCTU) in Melbourne, which has provided ad-hoc support to clinical trials professionals for several years. PCCTU Education, Training and Development Manager and now A-CTEC Director, Dr Eman Nafea, says that through a gap analysis, her team discovered there was a need for more affordable training in Victoria.

Dr Eman Nafea

“With the implementation of the National Clinical Trial Governance Framework, health services were looking for accredited clinical trials training,” said Dr Nafea.

“While people could study elements of clinical trials through private vendors, there wasn’t any training that was streamlined, high quality and continually up to date with the fast-paced changes happening in the sector.

“After establishing our education programs, we received a lot of interest from other organisations and research institutes,” said Dr Nafea.

In response, the Victorian Clinical Trials Education Centre was established in 2022, offering free education and training to build workforce capacity and capability in clinical trials. A flood of interest from other States and Territories drove its national expansion and relaunch as A-CTEC in early 2023.

Dr Nafea says while her team has been surprised at the rapid growth of the platform, it has made everyone realise that “it was the right move, the right time and what people needed.”

A-CTEC provides education and training for clinical trials staff at all levels of experience and competency, working in hospitals, medical research institutes, primary care and universities across metropolitan, regional and rural Australia.

“A-CTEC’s free-access, world-class training is a game changer for upskilling the workforce and improving clinical trials quality.”

Dr Karen Best, Director, SAHMRI Clinical Trials Platform

By June 2023, more than 2000 people from 180 health services, universities and medical research institutes had used A-CTEC’s service.

As well as education and training, the Centre provides participants with opportunities to network, share learnings and co-design new resources.

Its education and training resources are accessed through a dedicated learning management system focusing on six domains: scientific thinking, study management, regulatory management, interactions with participants, laboratory operations and professional skills.

To support compliance with the National Clinical Trials Governance Framework, A-CTEC reports on training metrics at a state or organisational level.

Chair of the A-CTEC Steering Committee, Drew Aras, says it is encouraging to see the level of collaboration and sharing that has underpinned the development and scaling of the Centre.

Headshot of Drew Aras, who is smiling directly at the camera.
Drew Aras

“The Steering Committee is committed to expanding the content on A-CTEC to meet gaps in current training,” said Mr Aras.

“This will ultimately contribute to enhancing the availability and quality of trials, which is good news for all Australians, particularly rural, regional and remote communities.”

A-CTEC have already received interest from international stakeholders wanting to streamline their staff education programs.

“We are open to that in the future… but for now we are focused on establishing the national platform,” said Dr Nafea.

She says A-CTEC has been working with governments in all States and Territories, and with the Australian Teletrials Program, to enable national expansion.

“I would really like to thank all of our partners, and in particular Victoria’s three Research Translation Centres, because without their initial funding and support in the first year, it wouldn’t have been possible.

“I hope the success of A-CTEC will change people’s mindsets about the significance of education in the clinical trials sector – it will no longer be a luxury and will just be part of their role.”

October Symposium

A-CTEC’s Symposium on October 19 will be essential for anyone working in the clinical trials space. The program for this half-day event features experts discussing the important topics around Managing Diversity and Equity in Clinical Trials, such as the need for data, inclusion of elderly and paediatrics, and equity of access in trials. Book your place by creating an account on the A-CTEC website and then accessing this link.

This article appeared in its original form in the 2023 AHRA Impact Report.