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Novartis expands Beacon of Hope through alliances with Historically Black Medical Schools to address systemic health disparities

·11 min read

Novartis commits additional $17.7 million to create Clinical Trial Centers of Excellence at Howard University College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, bringing total planned grants to $50 million over 10 years

Morehouse School of Medicine to initiate first clinical trial at Center of Excellence with Novartis in LDL-C management, key to addressing highest coronary heart disease mortality rate among African Americans

Sanofi and Merck sign on to Beacon of Hope to conduct clinical trials through the four Historically Black Medical School clinical trial Centers of Excellence

Novartis offers Beacon of Hope Summer Fellowship program at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research to train students for careers in drug discovery and clinical research

EAST HANOVER, N.J., June 22, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Novartis and the Novartis US Foundation are proud to announce significant progress on Beacon of Hope, our 10-year collaboration with 26 Historically Black Colleges, Universities (HBCUs) and Medical Schools, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), Coursera and the National Medical Association, to co-create programs that address the root causes of disparities in health and education, and create greater diversity, equity, inclusion and trust across the research and development ecosystem.

"Within one year of launching this unique collaboration, we have made tangible progress in tackling social determinants of health like education and discrimination, and creating enduring solutions for increasing diversity and inclusion in clinical trials," said Patrice Matchaba, MD, Head of US Corporate Responsibility at Novartis and President of the Novartis US Foundation. "Last year we issued a call to action to other like-minded companies and organizations to join us in creating this paradigm shift in health equity, and we are honored and humbled that Merck and Sanofi have answered the call."

New collaborations to increase diversity in clinical trial participants and investigators
Novartis and the Novartis US Foundation are working with Howard University College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science to create Clinical Trial Centers of Excellence at each school to conduct trials by investigators and trial managers of color among participants from underrepresented populations to more accurately represent the US population and improve health outcomes.

The three new clinical trial Centers of Excellence will be established with grants totaling $17.7 million over 10 years from the Novartis US Foundation, bringing our commitment in Beacon of Hope initiatives to more than $50 million over 10 years.

Howard, Meharry and Charles Drew will work together with the Clinical Trial Center of Excellence already established at Morehouse School of Medicine to form a consortium under the Beacon of Hope. Together they will collectively strengthen clinical trial capabilities and improve the quality and inclusivity of clinical trials to contribute to improved health outcomes for communities of color and help rebuild their trust in the healthcare system.

"Howard University College of Medicine plays a critical role in the pursuit of groundbreaking research that significantly impacts health outcomes for the African American community who have historically been overlooked for practices like clinical trials that are integral to medical research," said Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick. "By making it our mission to encourage research that has a particular impact on African Americans, and especially that which impacts overall public health, Howard University College of Medicine continues to serve as a leader and innovator in our community. This contribution to the creation of a Clinical Trial Center of Excellence will inform the work of Howard's National Research Center on Health Disparities allowing us to create robust collaborations with pharmaceutical and biomedical companies that lead to better-informed solutions to some of the world's most challenging public health issues. We are tremendously grateful to Novartis and the Novartis US Foundation for partnering with us to realize this vision."

"The Novartis team has truly risen to the occasion to accelerate diversity in clinical trials and the research and development ecosystem across our nation," added Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, President and CEO of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN. "We are grateful for the many critical next steps this initiative will take, which include fostering new groundwork for discovery through new clinical trial Centers of Excellence and increased access to resources to train the next generation of Black health care leaders at the four HBCU medical schools."

"Health equity isn't just a goal, it's a right," declared Dr. David M. Carlisle, President and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in South Los Angeles. "But like so many rights we now enjoy, sheparding it from idea to movement to reality takes a concerted effort, unyielding will, and strong partnerships. That's why we value our relationship with Novartis, the Novartis US Foundation, and all other Beacon of Hope participants as we work together towards a healthier tomorrow for everyone."

Pharmaceutical companies working together to run trials with the Centers of Excellence
Merck and Sanofi have signed on to the Beacon of Hope to run their clinical trials through the four Clinical Trial Centers of Excellence.

"We as an industry have an obligation to address health disparities through our research and development. To make sure all patients can benefit from our medicines, we must understand how these medicines work in diverse populations, especially in groups that have been historically underrepresented in clinical trials," said Dietmar Berger, Chief Medical Officer, Global Head of Development at Sanofi. "We are excited to join the Beacon of Hope collaboration and look forward to working with the Clinical Trial Centers of Excellence to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in our clinical trials."

"Merck is proud to participate in a collaboration focused on improving enrollment of underrepresented people into clinical trials with the common goal of ensuring these trials appropriately reflect the diversity of the patients we serve worldwide," added Andy Lee, Merck's head of global clinical trial operations.

Morehouse COE initiates first clinical trial
Morehouse School of Medicine's Clinical Trial Center of Excellence is now operational and will initiate its first study with Novartis on a clinical trial evaluating a cholesterol management pathway in patients on maximally tolerated statin therapy who have also experienced a recent acute coronary syndrome event. The Center of Excellence is evaluating additional Novartis clinical trials including cardiovascular, breast cancer and prostate cancer trials, and soon will begin to evaluate Merck and Sanofi clinical trials as well.

"Morehouse School of Medicine is proud to be the first Historically Black Medical School to establish and operate a Beacon of Hope Clinical Trial Center of Excellence. Through this collaboration, MSM has expanded our longstanding leadership in the creation and advancement of global health equity," said Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, FACOG, President and CEO of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA. "Beacon of Hope opens new doors for Morehouse School of Medicine students and researchers, who are innovating new treatments for chronic, acute, and emerging medical conditions to directly improve the health and wellbeing of patients and communities now and for generations to come."

Improving access to high-quality education and promising jobs
The Beacon of Hope collaboration also has made significant progress in empowering the next generation of African-American and Black students to become healthcare leaders. The parties have created several programs to address gaps in generational wealth by eliminating barriers and creating pathways through mentorship and training, including:

  • Beacon of Hope Summer Fellowship at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research – Novartis has created a 10-week paid summer fellowship program for 17 Historically Black Medical School students to learn drug discovery, data analytics and clinical research practices. Each student will be paired with a Novartis scientist mentor to gain first-hand experience running innovative research, science and technology projects. The program is expected to continue annually for 10 years, with the goal of training up to 250 scientists.

  • TMCF-Novartis US Foundation HBCU Alliance Scholarship and Mentorship program – In August, TMCF and Novartis US Foundation will award three-year scholarships of $10,000 a year to 120 students at 26 Historically Black Colleges, Universities and Medical Schools. Each scholarship recipient will be paired with a Novartis mentor for three years to help them navigate their academic career and professional future. TMCF and Novartis US Foundation will award additional three-year scholarships again in 2025 and 2028. An additional 280 students will be paired with mentors in each three-year cohort, with the goal of training up to 1,200 students over 10 years.

  • TMCF-Novartis US Foundation HBCU Alliance Faculty grants – In May, TMCF and Novartis US Foundation awarded ten $25,000 grants to HBCU faculty for research substantiating key drivers of health disparities and informing areas for change. TMCF and Novartis US Foundation plan to continue to award 10 research grants annually for 10 years.

  • Coursera virtual training courses – Coursera and Novartis have co-developed online programs to support STEM training in underserved communities and increase exposure to biomedical research career opportunities. The first three courses – training for clinical trial leaders, community health workers, and pharmaceutical research and development – will launch in 2023, with additional courses to follow.

About Beacon of Hope
Launched in July 2021 as a $33.7 million commitment from Novartis and the Novartis US Foundation, Beacon of Hope began as a 10-year collaboration with Morehouse School of Medicine and 26 other Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Coursera, and the National Medical Association, to work together to increase diversity among clinical trial participants and investigators; improve access to high-quality education and promising jobs; address inherent bias in the data standards used to diagnose and treat disease; and find actionable solutions to environmental and climate issues that disproportionately affect health among communities of color.

A guiding principle of Beacon of Hope is a recognition that achieving consequential changes in health and education equity at population scale, and addressing the systemic racism that has caused decades of disparity, is a long-term endeavor that will take sustained, collective effort from industry, academia and the communities. For more information on Beacon of Hope programs, please visit: https://www.novartis.us/corporate-responsibility/beacon-hope

Disclaimer
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements can generally be identified by words such as "potential," "can," "will," "plan," "may," "could," "would," "expect," "anticipate," "seek," "look forward," "believe," "committed," "investigational," "pipeline," "launch," "ensure" or similar terms, or by express or implied discussions regarding the activities and efforts described in this press release. You should not place undue reliance on these statements. Such forward-looking statements are based on our current beliefs and expectations regarding future events, and are subject to significant known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements. There can be no guarantee that the activities and efforts  described in this press release, including the collaboration with Coursera, the National Medical Association, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Morehouse School of Medicine and the 26 additional Historically Black Colleges, Universities and Medical schools, will be completed, or will achieve any of its intended goals or succeed in the expected time frame or at all. In particular, our expectations regarding the activities described in this press release, including such collaboration, could be affected by, among other things, the uncertainties inherent in research and development, including clinical trial results and additional analysis of existing clinical data; regulatory actions or delays or government regulation generally; global trends toward health care cost containment, including government, payor and general public pricing and reimbursement pressures and requirements for increased pricing transparency; our ability to obtain or maintain proprietary intellectual property protection; the particular prescribing preferences of physicians and patients; general political, economic and business conditions, including the effects of and efforts to mitigate pandemic diseases such as COVID‑19; safety, quality, data integrity or manufacturing issues; potential or actual data security and data privacy breaches, or disruptions of our information technology systems, and other risks and factors referred to in Novartis AG's current Form 20-F on file with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Novartis is providing the information in this press release as of this date and does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this press release as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

About Novartis
Located in East Hanover, NJ, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation – an affiliate of Novartis – is reimagining medicine to improve and extend people's lives. As a leading global medicines company, we use innovative science and digital technologies to create transformative treatments in areas of great medical need. In our quest to find new medicines, we consistently rank among the world's top companies investing in research and development. Novartis employs nearly 15,000 people in the United States. For more information, please visit https://www.novartis.us.

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SOURCE Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation