Updated: Dec 2, 2021
For the latest edition of our In Conversation With, we are joined by Roseanne Onyia, the Founder of Clinique Research, a leading CRO across West Africa. Roseanne is also the convener of The Clinical Investigator Summit (TCIS) Africa.
APR: Welcome Roseanne, and thanks for making the time to chat to us. Please tell us a bit
about yourself. Who is Roseanne Onyia?
RO: Thank you for having me. I am the Founder and CEO of Clinique Research Development
Limited, as well as the Convener of the annual TCIS AFRICA, Africa's biggest gathering of
clinical researchers. I am a Nigerian and a Clinical Research Professional on a quest to change the narrative about clinical researchers and clinical sites in Africa.
APR: You spent some time in the United States before returning to Nigeria. Tell us about your journey that side and what inspired the move back to your home country?
RO: I started my journey in clinical research in the year 2005. I had the opportunity to work mostly with pharmaceutical companies- Insys Therapeutics, Ovation Pharma, Abbott Laboratories and Astellas pharma. This experience provided me with insight into the clinical research field and realisation that Africa could play a major role in drug discovery. While this was exciting, it also came with the realization that we had a long way to go in competing for the studies with other continents due to the peculiarity of conducting trials on the continent.
The journey back home was for family reasons first and foremost, as well as the thrill of using my skills and enthusiasm to help clinical research thrive in Nigeria, especially given it is where I was born. Since my return in 2010, the road has been intriguing and full of hurdles. However, I can state that this industry has progressed over time, and interest in research among principal investigators and regulatory authorities has increased.
APR: You also have added quite a lot of qualifications to your name, and are currently studying towards a Masters degree in Public Health. Does this speak to your future plans, and how important is continuous education?
RO: My desire to see Africa continue to thrive, particularly in terms of research, has driven me to broaden my knowledge in this area in order to better contribute to this sector.
APR: You took quite a bold move leaving the safety net of having a stable job when you started Clinique. Tell us about your thinking at the time.
RO: Clinique was inevitable at the time, working with sponsors and hearing about their
apprehensions about conducting trials in Africa due to a lack of information and knowledge
of the terrain made many people hesitant about touching the continent. I quickly realized that there would be a need for an organization that was familiar with the terrain and knew how to conduct trials while adhering to global standards. It was difficult, and given the low number of trials in Nigeria at the time, as well as the fact that I was jobless, I had no option but to seize the bull by the horns.
APR: Having boots on the ground in Nigeria and the broader West Africa region gives Clinique quite an advantage. Tell us about some of the solutions the company offers.
RO: Clinique provides a variety of services to sponsors, pharmaceutical companies, and contract research organizations (CROs), giving them the peace of mind they need to conduct trials in West Africa. For organizations considering conducting trials, we offer site feasibility services, site monitoring services for phases 1–4, regulatory services, clinical trial application and facilitation, principal investigators and site preparedness trainings. Our pride comes from the fact that we are local experts with global expertise.
APR: I imagine you collaborate quite a lot with other CROs to support trials across the region. Tell us about some of the partnerships you have managed to put in place to help support studies across the continent.
RO: Clinique has successfully partnered with a number of CROs across Africa, and we are open to new partnerships since this is one of the means of reaching our goal of making Africa a key contributor to drug development. We're now collaborating with Innomas Research, 54gene, MMARCRO, Likak CRO, and a few more in our pipeline.
APR: Tell us about your future plans for the company. Where would you like to see Clinique
Research in the next decade?
RO: Within the next ten years... I'd want to see Clinique become a brand known for its commitment to excellence, competence, customers ’ satisfaction, and candour, and I'd like to see additional relationships formed not just in West Africa, but across the African continent
APR: The African landscape is not for the faint-hearted and requires a healthy dose of
resilience. What have been some of the key learnings when it comes to doing business across
RO: Very well expressed! The continent of Africa is not for the faint of heart. Like any business, one must be committed to their own dream, not someone else's, since your drive will be sustained by the dream and passion you have for your goal. Second, be prepared for the unexpected, as rules and regulations change frequently, and third, always be open to learning and collaborating with organizations that have similar goals.
APR: Having the front row seat to what’s been happening across the industry with the flurry
of COVID-19 trials, how has things been for you? Would you say the continent has been
meaningfully involved in the development of vaccines and treatments to help fight the
RO: While a few sponsor organizations have reached out to us on a fact-finding mission, I believe Africa has a significant role to play in the development of vaccines and therapies, given its population, unique characteristics, and medical competence. I hope that large pharmaceutical companies would explore cooperating with African research institutes to create vaccines and treatments, and I believe this will assist to establish confidence and minimize vaccine apathy.
APR: The continent has a lot of leading institutions that support research, with the likes of
KEMRI in Kenya, Ifakara in Tanzania and CERMEL in Gabon. Any thoughts about what Africa needs to get to the next level of leading the narrative when it comes to the development of solutions to solve its own health problems?
RO: Getting our house in order is one way we can start driving the narrative. First and foremost, we must increase the capability of our researchers and medical personnel. Second, our leaders should foster a passion for research by allocating significant amounts to research and the building and development of research facilities. Finally, work with the aforementioned organizations to learn from them and prevent making costly mistakes.
APR: In addition to supporting trials, you also started and convened The Clinical Investigators’ Summit (TCIS) Africa, an annual platform that connects leading figures across the industry. Tell us more about this. What was the inspiration behind this?
RO: TCIS Africa is the biggest gathering of clinical researchers, clinical research organisations (CRO), pharmaceuticals companies, other vendors and regulatory agencies in Africa. The 3rd edition comes up on 23rd and 24thMarch 2022 in Accra, Ghana. This came about as a result of my desire to see Africa's research expertise showcased. As previously stated, I founded Clinique Research to draw the attention of the global research community to what Africa has to offer and the work that is currently being done at research sites across Africa, in order to position them as attractive/reliable sites with which sponsors and pharmaceutical companies would feel comfortable working.
Also as previously said, most pharmaceuticals may not have access to these sites, the conference therefore provides opportunity for the sponsors and CRO’s to conduct feasibility evaluation for sites aligned with the organisation’s therapeutic needs during the conference. There is also room for vendors, clinical sites, CRO’s, Laboratories etc to exhibit. This summit provides a platform for networking and capacity building. TCIS AFRICA is notifying the global community that Africa is poised to make significant contribution to drug development and is open for business.
APR: Being quite involved with capacity building across the continent, what have been some
of the key learnings of how best the industry can develop the capacity needed to support the
growing number of studies in years to come?
RO: Capacity building and follow ups for clinical trial sites and its personnel is very crucial to the success of any trial as proper understanding and implementation of good clinical practices is essential to generate useable data at end of the study. While growth of clinical studies is welcomed, we still face the lack of capacity building and follow ups at clinical trial sites. Pharmaceuticals, CRO’s should be willing to invest in training clinical trial sites as relates site preparedness. Clinique Research is eager to collaborate with organisations interested in raising the bar of research in Africa. We currently offer a three-day onsite readiness training at research sites.
APR: In closing, with your wealth of experience, you are certainly an inspiration to many that
are following all the wonderful work you are doing. Any wise words for those looking up to
RO: Discover your passion, work on it and maintain your lane!
Thanks for chatting with us Roseanne. We wish you well with everything that lies ahead, and
the summit in the new year.
Founder/CEO, Clinique Research Development Limited and Convener of “The Clinical
Investigators' Summit" TCIS AFRICA.
A Clinical Research professional with 17 years experience working in the research field and a Respiratory Care Practitioner, licensed in the state of Illinois(USA)and has managed patients with respiratory health challenges. Her background in respiratory therapy led to her first employment working on a respiratory therapeutic study. She has worked with
pharmaceutical companies in the United States, such as Insys Therapeutics, Ovation Pharma, Abbott Laboratories, and Astellas Pharma, as well as CROs in Africa. She founded Clinique Research to bring attention to what Africa has to offer in the area of drug discovery.
The work presently being done at research sites across the continent, is positioning these sites as attractive/reliable sites with whom sponsors and pharmaceutical organizations would feel comfortable collaborating. She has worked in a variety of therapeutic areas, including cardiology, immunology, infectious diseases, hematology, respiratory medicine, and endocrinology. She has expertise managing clinical studies in phases 1 through 4. She is well versed in West African regulatory affairs and has aided various sponsors on fact-finding missions with information needed to make critical decisions. She is also a feasibility specialist, having built a database containing a large number of experienced principal investigators and clinical sites.
Her commitment to see research thrive in Africa led to the founding of The Clinical
Investigators Summit (TCIS AFRICA), Africa's largest gathering of clinical researchers, clinical research organizations (CRO), pharmaceutical firms, other vendors, and regulatory agencies. TCIS Africa has become an annual destination for African researchers, as well as a networking and learning platform. She hopes that Africa will very soon make a substantial contribution to the data utilized in drug discovery globally.