With its thematic research networks and its methodological and operational support platforms, the French national infrastructure F-CRIN - founded in 2012 and driven by Inserm - has boosted the attractiveness and international visibility of French clinical research. Encouraged by its progress so far, F-CRIN is currently preparing for the second step of its journey: 2020-2024.
Launched in 2012 and initially funded until 2019, the French Clinical Research Infrastructure Network project F-CRIN, coordinated by Prof. Olivier Rascol, neuropharmacologist at Toulouse University Hospital, must now envisage its future. The platform will submit to the French National Research Agency (ANR) a new project as part of its 2020-2024 plan, in order to continue work which has already served to improve the visibility and competitiveness of French clinical research.
F-CRIN is borne of the observation that despite the scientific and medical excellence of France's study centers, its clinical research was lacking visibility at the European and international levels. Too few European projects were being conducted in France, and the French research centers lacked attractiveness to industry. The reason? "Clinical research involves a multitude of players who are different and dispersed. This complex landscape was hindering the creation of major collaborative projects. Hence the idea of creating a national infrastructure capable of breaking down the silos" explains F-CRIN's current director, Vincent Diebolt.
It therefore involved federating scientific and medical expertise and giving sponsors and/or investigators a methodological basis for the set-up and follow-up of projects. "We are specifically targeting major clinical trials, especially international, "proof of concept" industry trials and multicenter trials. So many complex projects to set up and manage, for which a sole center or sponsor does not necessarily have the various competences and scope needed" emphasizes Diebolt.
A novel structure
Selected in 2010 as part of the Investments for the Future program, and operational since 2012, this national biology and health infrastructure is managed by Inserm and coordinated by a joint service unit* in Toulouse. F-CRIN currently counts twelve research and clinical investigation thematic networks (see text box), which at national level structure the teams involved in domains such as cardiology, pediatrics and Parkinson’s disease. "Rather than look for a center in Toulouse, an investigator in Lille, etc., a sponsor can now contact a sole "bridgehead"" explains Diebolt.
The other operational branch of F-CRIN brings together four methodological support platforms (preparation of applications, recruitment of patient cohorts, project management, statistical analysis...). Two of them, Euclid (Bordeaux) and Partners (Paris), assist the sponsors with trials of all types, whereas Tech4Health (Besançon) is devoted to medical devices and Orphan Dev (Marseille) to rare diseases.
F-CRIN's research and clinical investigation thematic networks
- FACT: Cardiology/Coronary diseases
- FORCE: Obesity
- I-REIVAC: Vaccinology
- IMIDIATE: Autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases
- INI-CRCT: Cardionephrology
- INNOVTE: Venous thrombosis
- NS-PARK: Parkinson’s disease
- CRICS-TRIGGERSEP: Sepsis
4 new networks have received F-CRIN labeling this year
- PEDSTART: Pediatrics
- FRCRnet: Retinal diseases
- CRISALIS: Severe asthma
- FCRIN4MS: Multiple sclerosis
An undeniable success
Evaluated very positively in 2016 by the ANR, F-CRIN has enabled a marked increase in the number of large-scale clinical trials conducted by the labeled thematic networks. F-CRIN has been associated with over 300 academic or industrial clinical trials since its creation, of which nearly half are multinational trials. This success is also expressed by a growing participation in research projects funded by the European research and development program, H2020.
The ECRIN entry portal
The objectives of the European Clinical Research Infrastructure Network ECRIN are to promote and facilitate multinational research. Its representatives in France are housed on the Toulouse site used to coordinate F-CRIN which is, in fact, the French partner of ECRIN.
F-CRIN is the driving force of ECRIN in France, whether for French players wishing to participate in an ECRIN project or for European players wishing to work with a French center.
Another sign of success: it was to F-CRIN that in 2016 the Strategic Council for the Healthcare Industries (CSIS) entrusted the task of steering the brand-new National Council for the Performance of Clinical Trials (CNaPEC). A body which brings together the various French players – from academia, industry, large company associations – to engage in a strategic think-tank on the attractiveness of national research.
Adapting to change
At a time when it is about to embark on the second phase of its existence, F-CRIN must adapt to changes in medicine, for example with its progress in cell therapy and personalized medicine, as well as those of clinical research, particularly with the growing importance of databases and massive biological collections. The desire is also to better include community medicine, given that a number of conditions are not managed in hospitals. This will involve the creation of community/hospital clinical research networks.
In addition, after targeting mainly the major pharmaceutical companies, F-CRIN must approach the start-ups and small innovative biotechs more. "France is very well positioned in this area but these highly-specialized companies are sometimes poorly aware of the demands of development plans and do not necessarily know how to prepare for clinical experimentation" explains its director.
F-CRIN also envisages the labeling of new thematic networks, via a call for applications. And finally, the platform has set itself the goal of achieving financial autonomy. From 2025, it will be required to continue to operate under its own steam, whether that is through the sale of expertise or through the support of the various players (hospitals; universities; foundations, research organizations, manufacturers).
For more information on F-CRIN, its organization and the services offered by the infrastructure, consult its website: www.fcrin.org
* JRU 15 Inserm/Université Toulouse 3 Paul Sabatier/Toulouse University Hospital