The COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordination Initiative (CRCI) was established in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help coordinate requests from researchers involved with COVID-19 research projects. Over the past three years, the CRCI played a key role in coordinating experts, resources, and data, from academics, industry partners, and health authorities to support COVID-19 research efforts in British Columbia.

The CRCI was a province-wide program developed in partnership with partners across B.C.

It was aimed at creating innovative health systems and structures capable of capturing and collating collective input and feedback to enable the prioritization and coordination of COVID-19 translational research. Activities also included the coordination of research related activities, the identification of research gaps, sharing of resources and liaising with the provincial health system.

The CRCI was based on the fundamental belief that together we are stronger. Through greater collaboration and the participation of many players in translational research — including patients, clinicians on the front lines of care, scientists, engineers, educators and trainees, as well as health authorities, provincial government, industry, regulatory and funding partners — we were able to accelerate new knowledge to combat COVID-19.

CRCI supported many COVID-19 research activities and coordination efforts, serving a range of individuals and organizations – and also serving as valuable contributors to and components of a provincial research response. This includes the Strategic Research Advisory Committee (SRAC) – supported by Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and reporting to the Provincial Health Officer and government – universities, health authorities, provincial funders, B.C.’s Academic Health Science Network, and others. Complementing these efforts, the CRCI helped coordinate research efforts in support of the priorities articulated in the SRAC’s framework document.

This B.C.-led initiative included representation from academic institutions, regional health authorities, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and the B.C. Ministry of Health.

Research is care, and care is research

Our patient partners strongly advocated their belief that every health care service interaction should be an opportunity to learn and improve services. Through a series of consultations, the public expressed that they want to be realizing the benefits of the breadth of expertise within our province – and this can occur only by integrating research and health.

The best-performing health systems are those that integrate research and care. Embedding data-driven innovation into our health system will create an environment that improves prevention, care, and treatment.

Below are five recommendations for how we as a province can work in partnership to facilitate and enable research that contributes to health equity, patient outcomes and population and public health benefits:

  1. Integrate health and academic systems.
  2. Reduce chronic operational barriers to health research.
  3. Embed data innovation and research into the health system in an equitable and systematic way.
  4. Ensure research-readiness of the health system.
  5. Enable meaningful collaboration with the private sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated that the health systems that treat care and research as intersecting activities have produced the best health outcomes – and it has provided us with a roadmap to do the same. By integrating health and academia, barriers to knowledge creation are removed and will enable an effective and efficient health sector.

Our Research is Care Briefing Document outlines this roadmap in more detail, along with associated actions for each recommendation.

Benefits for Researchers

  • Maximizing investigator time and clinical resources by ensuring research activities are coordinated and aligned.
    • Ensuring critical research is coordinated and aligned with clinical services to prioritize the use of limited clinical material, clinical trial capability, and other clinical resources.
    • Creating centralized support for coordinated data collection and access.
  • Providing researchers with access to critical research resources, including access to registry of COVID-19 patients and data (including clinical phenotype and biobank data).
  • Connecting researchers who want to get involved in COVID-19 research – or provide scientific input – to appropriate opportunities.
  • Providing a central communication platform to streamline critical communications, including those regarding:
    • Funding opportunities;
    • Provincial, national and international research collaborations and activities; and
    • Other key communications.
  • Creating centralized support for coordinated data collection and access.

Benefits for the citizens of British Columbia

    • Ensures that the COVID-19 research that is conducted in B.C. is supported and best positioned for success.
    • Improves opportunities for patients to find and participate in research in B.C.
    • Maximizes the use of valuable research resources (including samples) and data across multiple research studies to most effectively support innovation.