Mark Lacy, CEO
The speed and urgency in which vaccines were rolled out for the recent pandemic was unprecedented. It has been quite the journey over the last 12 months, and much has been achieved in record time. Top clinical research firms worldwide continue to be busy conducting investigational studies to develop new vaccines and medicines. According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), two COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) were authorized for emergency use in the United States in December of 2020. Because of limited initial vaccine supply, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) prioritized vaccination of health care personnel and residents and staff members of long-term care facilities (LTCF) during the first phase of the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination program.
Behind all the decision-making, numbers, statistics, and legislation are the people who worked night and day tirelessly to make it all happen. To this end, Benchmark Research—an industry leader in the clinical trials space, specializing in conducting investigational vaccine trials—is one of the companies chosen to conduct these crucial studies sponsored by the federal government and the RDA, for the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines. Benchmark Research was founded in 1997 by Mark Lacy, CEO, and Scott Barrett, President, who have developed a track record of safety and expertise, having conducted more than 1,000 trials with 40,000+ participants.
Benchmark has met and mostly exceeded enrollment goals in all seven fast tracked trials. Additionally, the company is running another 92+ vaccine device, treatment, and hospital coronavirus studies, which puts them in the unique position of doing more coronavirus work in the United States than most any other company.
“Our teams of motivated and focused investigators offer clinical trials expertise in a wide range of therapeutic areas. We embrace clinical research opportunities that new therapies bring to the marketplace and patients. Most of our workforce has been together for over 15 years. As such, we have a lot of loyalty built up with Benchmark Research. We nurture a family culture, rather than a corporate one,” says Mark Lacy, CEO, Benchmark Research. Today, the company has eight Clinical Sites around the U.S.—Austin, Ft. Worth, San Angelo, San Antonio, North Shore, New Orleans, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.
Client Centricity at Its Finest
Pharma companies have always struggled with recruiting qualified volunteers to participate in their studies, especially in the wake of the pandemic. As a result, many studies ran behind, costing pharmaceutical companies millions of dollars. To address this, Benchmark Research has been focusing on both a high volume of study patients for clients and delivering consistent quality data on them.
Our teams of motivated and focused investigators offer clinical trials expertise in a wide range of therapeutic areas, embracing clinical research opportunities that new therapies bring to the marketplace and patients
Not only is Benchmark Research geographically diverse, but the company also has key programs for racial diversity across clinical trials. Since the outbreak, it has been imperative for clinical researchers to have the proper number of distribution subjects across multiple ethnicities participating in trials. Benchmark Research, in this regard, is launching an initiative to address diversity and inclusion in clinical research as well.
With more strategic collaborations with Clinical Research Organizations (CROs) and more pharmaceutical companies than almost any other sites, Benchmark Research shares a very close relationship with them to deliver the best results. Concurrently, the company participates in clients’ bid defenses and works with them to analyze their protocols. Be it for a pharmaceutical company or a CRO, they do this at no cost via an honest working relationship.
Better Trial Integrations through Experience
Having developed organically since 1997, Benchmark currently has over 150 employees and eight executives on their leadership team. Benchmark Research has ‘been there, done that’ when it comes to any nuance pertaining to clinical trials. In 2009, at the peak of the H1N1 outbreak, Benchmark Research was the only company in the U.S. to enroll in every study.
Today, Benchmark Research is one of the few platform companies left in the U.S. They have the infrastructure to acquire/bolt-on/merge with other companies via a single master protocol to evaluate multiple treatments simultaneously. Their adaptive platform designs offer flexible features such as dropping treatments for futility, declaring one or more treatments superior, or adding new treatments to be tested during a trial. For many clinical trial companies out there, each site is substantially different, and they’re not run the same way. Benchmark Research operates to ensure that clients can expect continuity to gauge their research expectations. As such, clients can engage with any of Benchmark Research’s other sites working on the study because they already know how the sites operate.
“There are many ‘consolidated’ companies out there because they’re owned by the same people. But they don’t share most of the same processes or procedures.
This is what makes Benchmark Research different. We are truly a platform company who has the same continuity around all our procedures and our processes,” states Lacy. This is quite the benefit for a client that wants to expand their number of acquisition sites dramatically. The entire company shares the exact same processes and procedures, making the clinical trial more simplified and easy to expand.
All these factors, combined with their keen eye on being a patient-centric company, have won Benchmark Research the “Best Clinical Trial Site or Network” at the 9th annual Vaccine Industry Excellence (ViE) Awards, six out of the nine years that the award has been given.
Moving beyond the COVID-19 Battlefront
Benchmark Research has had a tremendous amount of studies around the COVID vaccine, with several other studies that are now coming online
Having conducted more than 380 trials with 28,000 participants in almost every conceivable vaccine in partnership with the private and public sectors at clinics located in California, Louisiana, and Texas, Benchmark Research has had a tremendous amount of experience in both COVID-19 and all vaccines. Benchmark Research’s immediate roadmap is to maintain its ability to adequately recruit compliant volunteers for studies and deliver high enrollment without compromising on quality. They expect future studies to pop up around cannabis, psychedelics, and opioid withdrawal studies to be major new areas for vaccines and they are investing time and effort to be the pioneers.
“Because vaccines are our sweet spot, and with the data that is coming out that the coronavirus is going to be around for another three or four years, we feel there are a lot of challenges still left to go,” Lacy adds. However, the company’s biggest goal for 2021 is to expand and make sure that they carry out consolidation for the trials that they conduct. Over the next five years, the world will see a tremendous amount of consolidation because of the mere cost of running CROs. Benchmark Research believes that there’ll be far fewer sites in five years, and the sites that are around will be part of larger networks or larger companies. In this regard, the company believes that there will be a switch to virtual site studies and that technological advantage can spell the difference between evolution and extinction in this space. As Lacy puts it, “If you are not state of the art then you’re a site that’s at a big disadvantage in today’s world. So that’s a really major change the technology and the hybrid, decentralized nature of future site models which are changing rapidly in the industry.” As a veteran entity in the clinical trials space, Benchmark Research will continue to align with these trends to bring lifesaving vaccines to the public ultimately.