The University of Minnesota is expanding access to clinical trials and supporting the health research community by sharing its clinical trial resource, StudyFinder, with other institutions designated with Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA), a program spearheaded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
StudyFinder is an online tool pooling clinical trials and research studies in one space, with easy-to-understand language and functions. It helps patients and healthy volunteers get involved and allows researchers to publicize their clinical trials and connect with study volunteers.
Now other research institutions have adopted the tool, including Penn State University and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), thanks to open-source coding.
Open-sourced code allows outside groups to customize, adapt and implement the program onto their own websites for use in their own communities.
"Shared infrastructure that can be easily exported to other CTSA sites ultimately means less time spent developing the infrastructure and more time spent removing other barriers preventing health breakthroughs from benefitting the public," said Melissa Mueller, MPH, StudyFinder's co-creator. She is also the Recruitment Service Manager for the University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).
CTSI is part of a national consortium comprised of approximately 60 other Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) institutions. CTSI supports researchers to help them bring discoveries into practice and improve human health.
StudyFinder was built by CTSI's Recruitment Center and the Academic Health Center's Information Systems department.
"StudyFinder's simple interface makes it easier for people to participate in research and help develop treatments that may one day benefit a friend, a family member, or someone around the world," said Mueller.
There are currently more than 360 studies listed on the University of Minnesota's StudyFinder website, seeking participants that vary in age and health condition, including trials seeking healthy volunteers.
"The single biggest reason clinical trials fail is lack of enrollment," said Timothy Schacker, M.D., associate director of U of M's Clinical and Translational Science Institute. "Many people, particularly healthy people, don't realize they can volunteer for health studies. StudyFinder helps bridge that gap. Its fantastic that other institutions can utilize this tool for research progress across the country, not just here in Minnesota."
Other CTSA institutions are also engaging in discussions with CTSI about adopting StudyFinder.
"The way StudyFinder is designed really opens the door to collaboration," said Schacker. "Not only can institutions use the StudyFinder code, but they can contribute to it as well. We hope down the road this will help all CTSAs, not just the University of Minnesota, to conduct more studies and improve the lives of those suffering from health conditions."