Clinical Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

Please join us for the CTO2021 virtual conference on March 23rd, 24th, and 25th from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.

This past year has underscored the critical role that clinical trials play in advancing medicine, improving care and responding effectively to urgent health crises. At this year’s conference we will reflect on clinical trials during the time of COVID-19, hear new perspectives, and learn about emerging opportunities.

Register here free of charge


March 23, 2021

1:00pm to 4:00pm 

Opening Remarks

Honourable Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities, Government of Ontario

COVID-19: The Changing Nature of Clinical Trials

Dr. John Marshall is the Canadian lead investigator in the REMAP-CAP trial, and a key player in the World Health Organization (WHO) SOLIDARITY trial, both of which are global trials evaluating treatments for COVID-19. For the past eight years, Dr. Marshall, along with the global critical care research community, worked to build a research platform to expedite research in the face of a global pandemic. Experience with SARS and H1N1 convinced Dr. Marshall and his colleagues that in order to respond adequately to the next pandemic, it was necessary to have trial architecture up and running before the pandemic arrived. In this session, Dr. Marshall will discuss the changing nature of clinical trials in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaker: Dr. John Marshall, Professor of Surgery at the University of Toronto, Trauma Surgeon and Intensivist at St. Michael’s Hospital, and founding chair of the International Forum for Acute Care Trialists (InFACT)

Conducting a Virtual Clinical Trial During a Pandemic

Speaker: Breanne Stewart, Associate Director Clinical Trials, Maternal Infant Child & Youth Research Network (MICYRN); Clinical Operations Project Manager, Clinical Research Unit Edmonton (CRUE)

Moving Clinical Trials Closer to Patients: Did it Take a Pandemic? 

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario’s clinical research community quickly adapted to ensure trials could be conducted safely in our new reality. Beyond this initial response, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to establish a ‘new normal’ for clinical trials conduct through a more virtual future. With a high level of collaboration, Ontario’s clinical trials community is well positioned to come out of COVID-19 even strong than ever. In this session, hear from three speakers as they address the initial response to conducting clinical trials in a pandemic, decentralized trials and their positive impact on patients, and the approaches which Ontario is taking to stay competitive.

Moderator: Lisa Machado, Founder, Canadian CML Network; Executive Producer,


  • The Impact of COVID-19 on Conducting Clinical Trials
    • Katie Roposa, Director, Research Quality Integration, UHN
  • Staying Competitive: Best Practices for a Digital Future
    • George Memari, Clinical Trials Operations, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.
  • Decentralized Trials: The Future of Clinical Research
    • Craig Lipset, Advisor and founder of Clinical Innovation Partners, former Head of Clinical Innovation at Pfizer, and on the founding Operations Committee for TransCelerate Biopharma


March 24, 2021

1:00pm to 4:00pm 

What’s it Really Like to Participate in a Clinical Trial?

Have you ever participated in a clinical trial or wondered what it’s like to be on the participant side of a clinical trial? Three clinical trial participants will candidly share their experiences, including: what they liked, what they didn’t like, what surprised them, and anything else they’re comfortable sharing. A moderated discussion will allow exploration of the experience of being in a clinical trial.

Moderator: Maureen Smith, Patient Partner


Navigating the Complex Terrain of Clinical Trials in Children and Youth in Canada


  • Dr. Thierry Lacaze-Masmonteil, Professor, Department of Paediatrics, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary; Scientific Director, MICYRN, CHEER Principal Investigator
  • Antonia Palmer, Co-Founder, Advocacy for Canadian Childhood Oncology Research Network (Ac2orn); Founder, Neuroblastoma Canada, Chair, CHEER Patient and Family Advisory Committee

Patient Preferences and Clinical Trial Design

Patient preferences and perspectives considered in clinical trial design often lead to more relevant trial outcomes and policy decisions for these populations. In some therapeutic areas, there are robust examples of including patients as members of clinical trial teams, while others are developing frameworks to guide inclusion of patient preferences in randomized control trials. There are also efforts to include populations in clinical trials who are typically absent from studies, given the light the COVID-19 pandemic has shone on the implications that result from this practice. This session will showcase some examples related to patient preferences in clinical trial design and the outcomes that these have or will enable.

Moderator: Bev Heim-Myers, Chair, Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness


  • Using Patient Preferences to Inform Clinical Trial Design in Rheumatology
    • Megan Thomas, Master’s Student, Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary
    • Laurie Proulx, Patient Partner, Ottawa
  • Clinical Trials in Pregnancy, a Pandemic Response Call to Action
    • Dr. Lauren Kelly, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics & Child Health and Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba
  • The Need for a Holistic Approach to Acromegaly Management
  • The “GO-CART” Approach to Patient Engagement in an Early Phase Clinical Trial 
    • Terry Hawrysh, Patient Advocate and Volunteer, Leukemia Lymphoma Society of Canada
    • Dr. Manoj Lalu, Associate Scientist, Clinical Epidemiology and Regenerative Medicine Programs, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute


March 25, 2021

1:00pm to 4:00pm 

Clinical Trials and Canadian Policy: Where do we stand globally?

Innovations of the kind that come from clinical trials marry money, talent and science. How is Canada doing in attracting investment for research, supporting science and bringing talent from here and abroad to foster innovations in medicine? Jeffrey Simpson, former national affairs columnist for The Globe and Mail and author of an award-winning book on the Canadian health-care system, Chronic Condition, will address these and other questions that affect clinical trials in Ontario and Canada, including how we can prepare for future long-term success.

Speaker: Jeffrey Simpson, Acclaimed Journalist, Former National Affairs Columnist for The Globe and Mail

Clinical Data Infrastructure in Canada: Are we ready for the next pandemic?

Speaker: Fahad Razak, Internist, St Michael’s Hospital; Assistant Professor, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto; Research Scientist, Li Ka Shing Institute; Provincial Lead, Quality Improvement in General Internal Medicine, Ontario Health

Artificial Intelligence, Health Research and Research Ethics:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) excels at recognizing patterns in large volumes of data, extracting relationships between complex features in the data, and identifying characteristics in data that cannot be perceived by the human brain. It has the potential to advance health research, improve patient outcomes, benefit clinicians, and provide the public higher quality care. The sessions below will examine the use of AI technology in health research and the ethical questions that are triggered by the use and management of vast amounts of data.


Advancing Research through the Ontario Health Data Platform

  • Dr. Jane Philpott, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University; CEO, Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization; Special Advisor, Ontario Health Data Platform

Research Ethics and Methods in Machine Learning: A Discussion for Non-Computer Scientists 

  • Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan, Director of the Office of Research Support Services and Senior Research Scientist at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute
  • Dr. Brenda Curtis, Investigator, Translational Addiction Medicine Branch, Technology and Translational Research Unit, National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program
  • Salvatore Giorgi, Data Scientist, Technology and Translational Research Unit, National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program