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From Bench to Clinic: A Researchers Guide to Move Candidate Vaccines into Trials


From Bench to Clinic is a webtool to help researchers most efficiently move their candidate vaccines into first-in-human trials.  With a focus on the practical steps that need to be accomplished before a clinical trial can be initiated, this tool is intended to acquaint researchers, funders and advocates, with the processes, costs and timelines involved in the first phase of product development.

From Bench to Clinic is part of the Enterprise’s Timely Topics in HIV Vaccines initiative, a new strategy series to identify and respond to unresolved and emerging priority issues in the field. I proposed the topic and worked closely with Eddy Sayeed of IAVI and Yegor Voronin from The Enterprise with supports from many others to make it a reality.

The tool was presented during a satellite symposium at the 2014 AIDS Vaccine Conference in Barcelona and draw the attention of researcher and of the industry.


Bench To Clinic

A Brief Introduction to Project Management

This presentation is a short introduction to project management for researchers and clinicians. It provides an overview of the process and emphasises some key elements of project management such as the Gannt Chart, how to write milestones and how to approach risk. The presentation was given at the MRCC as apart of a Workshop for applicants to the DPFS/DCS scheme.

Bench to Clinic Roadmap

From The Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise

Taking new vaccines into a phase I study requires comprehensive knowledge of a large number of issues in various areas and an understanding of how they impact one another, of which only a handful of investigators, funders and community representatives can fully fathom. Recognition of the various components required and the complexity of moving a product from bench to clinic in a first-in-man study is critical in helping to avoid delay and/or derailment of the process.

This project aims to generate a web-based toolkit to give researchers an overview of steps required to take HIV vaccine candidates from concept into Phase I clinical trial. The roadmap will describe the key steps, relevant expertise and an estimate of the time and costs required at each step, based on past experience.  Areas where country-specific nuances may exist will be highlighted.


  • Generate an interactive web tool (Roadmap) to guide researchers through the steps necessary to take an HIV vaccine candidate from concept into a phase I clinical trial.
  • Engage approximately 50 experts from relevant fields to refine the roadmap.
  • Make the roadmap available to the public through presentations at conferences and webinars, the creation of a webpage and other materials.

Format: This is a virtual convening, facilitated by webinars, teleconferences and email distribution lists.

Date: The project is expected to be completed by May 2013.

Organizing Committee

  • Dr. Roger Tatoud, Imperial College, London, UK
  • Dr. Eddy Sayeed, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, USA
  • Dr. Yegor Voronin, Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, USA


The results of RV144 are encouraging and suggest that a combination of different vaccine candidates is critical to trigger a successful immune response (1,2,3).  At the same time, manufacturing and combining different products is a challenging enterprise with many complex ramifications that few understand fully or are prepared to undertake.  Discussions among clinicians and scientists often revolve around designing new trials and taking more products into clinical trials. However, the question of how to make these products and the feasibility of combining products of different origins into a clinical trial is rarely discussed, especially within the broader context of funding, expertise required and timing.  Existing roadmaps, such as the Clinical Trial toolkit designed by NIHR, provide a general overview of the clinical trial regulations and best practices, but do not provide the sufficient details on the steps necessary to manufacture and prepare a product to be tested in the trial. Recognizing and understanding key steps required to manufacture a product will help researchers without prior experience, to plan and to embark upon a Phase I trial.


1. Rerks-Ngarm et al.,Vaccination with ALVAC and AIDSVAX to Prevent HIV-1 Infection in Thailand. N Engl J Med. 2009;361:1–12
2. Montefiori DC et al. Magnitude and breadth of the neutralizing antibody response in the RV144 and Vax003 HIV-1 vaccine efficacy trials. J Infect Dis. 2012 Aug 1;206(3):431-41.
3. Karasavvas N, et al. The Thai Phase III HIV Type 1 Vaccine Trial (RV144) Regimen Induces Antibodies That Target Conserved Regions Within the V2 Loop of gp120. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2012 Nov;28(11):1444-57

Take Part and Tell Us What You Think

We plan to solicit input from a large number of experts in the field. If you would like to contribute, please visit the Enterprise Website.

Three key barriers to the effective translation of bioscience breakthroughs into patient benefit

In April 2012, speaking from Japan, a very symbolic location, the UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts announced the opening of a £180 million Biomedical Catalyst scheme to provide grant funding for innovative small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and academics to develop solutions to healthcare challenges. Prime Minister Cameron, and before him Blair , had emphasised that “Invention is one of the things we do really well in the UK”. Without a doubt, the emphasis is for translational research to be at the heart of science policy in the UK and to ensure that scientific innovation gets translated into applied uses in business.

The NIHR, through the Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs) and Units (BRUs), the Comprehensive Local Research Networks (CLRN), the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI), and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), to name only a few, have all been established to facilitate the process of translating bioscience breakthroughs into patient benefit by providing clinical infrastructures and personnel, funding, access to patients and to businesses.

However, numerous obstacles remain and this paper will outline three of the most important barriers to effective translational breakthroughs. These have been identified based on my 17-year experience working in the UK, from the bench to the clinic and beyond, in areas as various as basic sciences trying to understand the mechanism of cancer progression to the conduct of international phase III HIV prevention trials.

Translational medicine aims to bridge the gap between basic science and its application to human diseases, from bench to bedside, and beyond. It is a long and complex process too often inappropriately conceptualised as a stepped progression in which one stage of product development leads to another. In fact, it is much more appropriate and accurate to consider translational medicine as a whole, as a system designed and managed for the purpose of bringing medical innovation to the public.

The process is fraught with pitfalls and drawbacks and the risk for failures are numerous and high at every stage. The following three areas represent what I believe are the most important barriers to effective translation.

Intellectual Property (IP)

This is an area often overlooked at the early stage of research and development. However, existing IP can restrict access to products and technologies on which some innovations are built. Combining different IP is often difficult. Owners of background IP see a potential danger in mixing IP from different products and technology, in terms of ownership as much as because they fear potential damages from unexpected outcomes of the research.

At a later stage of development, unsettled or unexplored IP issues can threaten the development and roll-out of scientific innovation. Working with the industry and trying to understand and agree IP management and exploitation requires highly qualified professionals who are not always available in an academic environment where the translational process starts.

Art search and the patenting process are long, time-consuming, and costly. They require a non-negligible effort and contribution from researchers to provide background information about their products which they don’t necessarily have. Nowadays, several grant schemes have stressed this aspect of product development (such as the MRC DPFS/DCS scheme), but they have also created further difficulty by tying funding to their own IP terms. Gates and EU grants require favourable pre-agreed terms for access in developing countries whilst projects are still at an early stage. This is unwarranted as commercial success is unpredictable in the early days of development but creates barrier to access.

Regulatory frameworks

There is a giant step between making and testing a product arising from a bioscientific breakthrough in a research lab or in pre-clinical settings, and then manufacturing and trialling the same product for the purpose of using it in humans. Rules and guidance for product manufacturing (cGMP) and the conduct of trials (ICH-GCP), decided at EU level and implemented nationally, are complex and constraining. Regulations in the US and elsewhere are also different.

Overall, such regulations create different levels of requirements which limit and complicate opportunities for product manufacture and development. Further, regulations often fail to distinguish between products for use in early stage human studies and products for late phase III trials leading to increased cost and delay in manufacture and development.

The constraining frameworks created by these regulations have been recognized. In 2011 the EU conducted a Public consultation on a concept paper on the revision of the ‘Clinical Trials Directive’ (2001/20/EC) to assess its functioning. Much work needs to be done in order to simplify and streamline regulations and construct them so that they address the specific risk associated with new discoveries.

Management and coordination

Translational Medicine Management is about filling the gaps, joining the parts and building bridges between numerous infrastructures, people, interests and concerns. Skilled and efficient management from start to finish, from idea to end user is critical and pivotal in overcoming the many obstacles that thwart translational medicine.

The knowledge required is vast in scope (from basic science to trial regulations and public health policy) and necessitates skills in administration, finances, business and IP, as well as a sound knowledge of institutional practice. Several organisations have been set up to provide some support to researchers and clinicians wanting to engage in the process, but the breadth of the task ahead remains daunting.

Innovators have to juggle many other tasks in parallel and are not necessarily trained to manage a seamless transition from the bench to the bedside. Universities rarely provide the skilled managers and operational support required and inventors are left to deal with a high level of complexity on their own, not always knowing where to start and where to go for advice and support/assistance. It would be useful to create a roadmap from breakthrough to patient as there is one for the conduct of clinical trials .

Navigating the rapids, in what David Willetts called a “valley of death” towards commercial successes that will benefit patients remains a slow, expensive, and failure-prone endeavour . There is help at hand but the multiplicity of frameworks and stakeholders creates barriers to the translation of innovation into practical applications.

With the current emphasis on conducting research that benefits patients and contributes to the UK economy, the cost remains an issue at all stages but projects that are worth developing are able to raise and attract funding when they receive appropriate institutional and business support. Funding, now often milestones-based, decreases the risk for the funder to invest in a product for which development remains uncertain.

There is a need for building and understanding the big picture that would help identify roadblocks and leverage points to fasten and simplify the translation research process in line with government aspiration.

Clinical Research and Communities – Conflicting Needs?

The conduct of clinical research often conflicts with community life even if it is done for the benefit of the public. This can be explained by differences in perception, understanding and respective knowledge of each other’s interests and needs. This slide was designed to support discussions around the issues raised by the need to conduct clinical research in communities which often struggle to undertsand the research and how they can impact on what is being done. It can also be used by communities who want to engage with researchers to facilitate the conduct of mutually beneficial clinical research.