Benchmark Research launches diversity effort to ensure minority representation in clinical research


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on communities of color is increasing calls for more inclusive clinical trials.

Benchmark Research is launching an initiative to address diversity and inclusion in clinical research. Minorities Advancing Clinical Research Operation or M.A.C.R.O. will work to:

  • increase awareness of racial disparities in the clinical research industry,
  • highlight the importance of minority representation in clinical trials,
  • listen to and understand the concerns of minority populations,
  • and educate minority communities about the safety measures in clinical research.

Jarmel Butler joined Benchmark’s Moderna vaccine trial in 2020 as she watched loved ones die from COVID-19.

“You can’t imagine how quickly it wipes you out; it takes you out so fast,” Butler said.

Although she has seen vaccine hesitancy and medical mistrust in the Black community, she felt taking part of the trial was part of a solution to fight the virus.

“The non-trust is what we are battling,” said Van Johnson, vice president of business development at Benchmark Research. “We want to make sure what we are doing will work for everyone and that there are no adverse affects on one nationality or the other.”

For all trials across all Benchmark Research sites, the demographic breakdown is: 

  • 27% Black
  • 53%  Non-Hispanic/White
  • 17% Hispanic/White
  • 3% Asian
  • < 1% are American Indian (same value for Pacific Islander, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian)

For all trials in Austin, the demographic breakdown is:

  • 14% Black
  • 57% Non-Hispanic/White
  • 24 % Hispanic/White
  • 4% Asian
  • < 1% are American Indian (same value for Pacific Islander, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian)

“Inclusion of all genders, races and ethnicities isn’t just a social issue — it’s a medical issue,” Johnson said. “It’s critical that the makeup of clinical trials reflect real-world populations so that medications are tested for everyone who will take them.” 

Benchmark Research hopes M.A.C.R.O. will promote honesty and transparency about clinical research and encourage trust between researchers and minority communities. The company hopes to recruit more doctors and nurses of color to work in the clinical research realm.

It is in the process of partnering with organizations like the United Negro College Fund, Texas Diversity Council and the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce. The goal is to also connect with fellow advocates and provide scholarships for area students. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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