A pharma company's future is dependent on its product pipeline, and for that reason planning clinical trials years in advance is a key to success. But it appears some teams are going as far to submit protocols to the NIH for trials in the somewhat distant future. Let's take a look.

For established players in the biopharma industrial space, it’s easy to understand why planning for clinical trials months or even a year or two ahead could be useful: time spent planning now frees up resources for use down the line, leaves the organization flexible in response to changing research findings, and can give stakeholders a headstart on commercialization strategy.

But exactly how obsessive are clinical trial planners regarding filling their schedules for trial start dates years ahead of time? As we’ll soon see, some sponsors are in clinical trials for the long game.

Using TrialFinder to dig through data in the ClinicalTrials.gov database, we see that some clinical operations teams have not just planned their trials years in advanced, but already registered their protocol with the NIH. In one example we'll come back to, one organization already has a trial registered to start in 2025 - and the nature of the trial relies on the development of extant technology over the coming years.

Let's dig into trials that are already registered for the future.


The Big Picture

Trials registered on ClinicalTrials.gov with a start date in the future. Click to enlarge.

This chart is a simple breakdown of clinical trial start dates by month from the last few months of 2017 leading up to the limit of our data, which happens to be in 2025. Based on the color of the bar, you can also tell what kind of organization is sponsoring the trial. Turquoise is industry-funded, red is the "other" category comprised mostly of academic and medical centers, and yellow is U.S. Fed trials.

The bulk of clinical trials starting in the near future—especially in January of 2018—shouldn’t surprise anyone, as clinical trials are typically organized in response to research findings, which are constantly evolving.


Squinting Into The Distance

Trials registered on ClinicalTrials.gov with a start date in 2019 or later. Click to enlarge.

The above chart depicts the number of clinical trials scheduled to start from January 2019 onward to the limit of our data. Predictably, most industry players aren’t interested in touching trial planning beyond the horizon of their cutting-edge research and ongoing trials, leaving hospitals and universities as the primary study sponsors willing to plan farther than an entire year out.

Where the data start to get weird is around 2020, where an intrepid sponsor has planned to start a clinical trial. Given the current pace of scientific research, one might assume that most biomedical fields would change drastically over between now and then, rendering any efforts of planning so far into the future a waste of time. Look at the final planned trial in our dataset, though: one intrepid sponsor has planned to begin a new clinical trial in March of 2025.


The First Clinical Trial Of 2025

Details on the clinical trial already registered to start in 2025. Click to enlarge.

What kind of trial sponsor would be willing to bet on the relevance of a clinical research question more than five years out? Entire disciplines have risen and fallen in less time. Needless to say, the first registered trial of 2025 deserves a closer look:

Someone at the University of Miami is banking on the technology for transendocardial autologous cell generation making a quantum leap from the laboratory to reach the clinic of the future. It’s farsighted planning like this study that gives a strategic roadmap for science, and so it’s worth giving a little extra credit where it’s due. The first study of 2025 will be sponsored by a familiar sponsor of the present.

Though, speculation does beg the question: was there a mistake when registering dates of the protocol?

Relevant contact information has been censored from the above image, and while 2025 might be a little too far into the future, the conclusion here is this: leading clinical trial sponsors to think far into the future while working laboriously in the present.