Novartis and the Novartis US Foundation have undergone a substantial expansion of their Beacon of Hope initiative, a decade-long commitment aimed at collaboratively developing programs that tackle disparities in health and education while promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and trust within the research and development sector. Six additional organizations have joined forces with Beacon of Hope, with the shared objective of expediting advancements in diversity, equity, and inclusion within clinical trials, researching healthcare disparities, and dismantling obstacles hindering career prospects for students from marginalized communities.
Linda Armstrong, President of the US Novartis Foundation and Head of Novartis US Corporate Responsibility, expressed Novartis’ commitment to the success of Beacon of Hope and the importance of conducting a comprehensive assessment to identify areas of progress and gaps in fulfilling the program’s mission. Novartis actively sought collaborations with organizations possessing expertise, particularly in technology, that share the same mission of addressing the root causes of health and education disparities.
To enhance the clinical trial capabilities of the established Centers of Excellence under Beacon of Hope, Novartis and the Novartis US Foundation have partnered with three new collaborators: Advarra, BeeKeeperAI, and Virb. These collaborators will provide advanced technology support in various areas. Advarra will offer digitally enabled technology and professional services to support clinical trial-site management at Historically Black Medical School Centers of Excellence. BeeKeeperAI will introduce a privacy-preserving collaboration platform that enables secure computation on real-world data, ensuring confidentiality and compliance. Their objective is to simplify collaborations between data stewards and algorithm developers while protecting privacy, reducing bias, and accelerating the analysis of ethnically diverse data. This aligns with the initiative’s goal of advancing health equity.
Virb, Inc., led by CEO Garrett Walker, is committed to providing skill development and training opportunities to the next generation of clinical trial leaders from African American, Black, and Hispanic backgrounds. Their primary goal is to achieve tangible success and create a positive impact on health equity.
Two prominent pharmaceutical companies, Amgen and Alnylam, have joined the Beacon of Hope initiative. These companies will conduct clinical trials through their Centers of Excellence. Additionally, Alnylam will run a summer fellowship program aimed at preparing underrepresented students for careers in drug development. Ponda Motsepe-Ditsego, Vice President and Therapeutic Area Head of Global Medicine at Amgen, emphasizes their dedication to increasing representation of Black and brown communities in clinical trials. Pushkal Garg, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Alnylam, expresses their commitment to fostering diversity in clinical trials and collaborating with Beacon of Hope to expedite progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Among the Centers of Excellence established under Beacon of Hope, the Clinical Trial Center of Excellence at Morehouse School of Medicine has initiated four Novartis clinical trials, with two additional studies currently under consideration. Similarly, medical schools like Howard Medical School, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and Meharry Medical School are evaluating proposals from Novartis for potential trials at their own Centers of Excellence.