How Clinical Sites Can Master Signal-Based Prospecting to Secure Their Next Big Trial

Ready to bag your next big trial? The competition is cutthroat, and you’ve got to stay ahead of the game. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back!

Finding new trials can be a real pain, right? Many of our clients have struggled with the tedious and time-consuming process of scouring press releases and, often reaching out to sponsors when site selection is already finished, resulting in missed opportunities. Add in the overwhelming responsibilities of site directors and clinical coordinators, and business development can feel impossible. That’s where signal-based prospecting swoops in like a superhero, saving the day by making the whole process efficient and manageable.


What’s Signal-Based Prospecting Anyway?


Instead of wading through endless press releases and data mountains, signal-based prospecting helps you focus on the sponsors and trials that actually matter. Time is money, and you can’t be spending yours on hours of research, it’s just not practical in this competitive climate. This way, you spend less time researching and more time on the important stuff – like crafting personalized outreach, building relationships, and of course, conducting the clinical research itself.

Let’s break down the key triggers you should be looking for:

  1. Successful Study Results - A successful trial will likely prompt the next phase.
  2. Indicators of Rescue/Delay Studies - A setback is an indication that a sponsor is looking for new partnerships.
  3. Recent Funding - A recent cash infusion suggests upcoming pipeline developments.
  4. Mentions of upcoming trials - The sooner you know about a trial, the better chance you have to create a partnership.


Now that we have identified the key triggers, let's delve deeper into how you can leverage these to your advantage and secure the next trial for your clinical site. 


Winning Streaks: Where Success Leads to More

A successful study result is a clear sign that a sponsor has a bright future ahead. Take Apellis Pharma from Massachusetts, for instance—they recently announced positive phase 2 results for their kidney disease treatment.

When you see a positive phase II result, it usually means that a phase III trial is on the horizon. This shows that the treatment has proven to be safe and effective in a smaller group and is ready for testing in a larger, more diverse population.


So, what’s your next move? Start building a relationship with the key stakeholders at that sponsor. 

  • Congratulate them! This is an exciting milestone that took some serious work to accomplish. 

  • Express your interest in their work, and offer your site as a potential location for their next trial. 

  • Remember, it's not just about offering your site, but also about demonstrating your capability. Sponsors care about Principle Investigators (PI) with expertise and experience. The more stacked your PI’s resume, the better - this showcases that you are a reliable partner. 

  • Other notable mentions are your past successes, your team's qualifications, and your site's facilities. 

Cold outreach can be a tough nut to crack—it’s always a work in progress. To help you out, we’ve put together a Cold Outreach Blog with tips and tricks specifically for reaching out to drug sponsors.


Spotting Opportunities in Study Hiccups

If rescue-delay studies aren’t on your radar yet, you could be missing out on some great opportunities. Take Prolong Pharmaceuticals, for example. They’ve likely hit a bump in the road, pushing their phase 1 stroke trial start date from October 2021 to April 2024.

It might seem odd to approach a sponsor right after they’ve had a setback, but actually, it may the perfect time to step in. Rescue studies happen when a trial encounters major issues or early results suggest the drug might not be effective. This could be due to a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is something went wrong, and the sponsor is trying to save their investment. This is where you come in. Chances are, their current partnerships didn’t work out, so they’re looking for new ones. Sometimes, they might even bring in a specialized Clinical Research Organization (CRO) to rescue the trial—making this a valuable connection for you too.


This is your chance to shine. In these scenarios, you want to first proceed with caution, and investigate the trial further to determine if you are interested in getting involved. If you notice an opportunity, showcase your problem-solving skills and your ability to manage complex trials. Lean on your strengths—your PI’s expertise and your study experience will be crucial here. Offer your help and propose a plan to help them get back on track. 


Show Me the Money

Budgets are tight right now. When funding comes in, it’s a sign that the sponsor has some promising therapies in the pipeline—but you probably already knew that. Tracking funding can be a bit tricky since there are so many different types: federal grants, private equity (PE), venture capital (VC), angel investors, and crowdfunding. It’s tough to know what to look for and why. Financial resources are stretched thin, and investor money is highly sought after. Many of our clients are noticing that PE and VC investments are currently on hold due to the upcoming elections and potential tax changes. These firms are playing it safe for now.


On the flip side, federal grants like SBIR, STTR, and NIH are proving to be more reliable in these uncertain times. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are designed to support domestic small businesses, like Function Therapeutics from Wisconsin or Fibronox from Arizona, to engage in federal research and development with commercialization potential.

These grants provide crucial early-stage funding that helps small companies bridge the gap between concept and marketable product. Early-stage sponsors who get this funding probably don’t have existing partnerships with clinical sites, making them more open to your outreach.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants are typically awarded to more established companies, such as TAXIS Pharmaceuticals from New Jersey. These grants not only provide financial support but also signal a certain level of validation and endorsement of the research being conducted. For clinical research sites, it's like a seal of approval, showing that the company is reliable and would be a fantastic partner.


Glimpse of Tomorrow: Anticipating Upcoming Trials

Mentions of upcoming trials are like hidden treasures. These are usually buried deep within press releases or financial disclosures but are worth the effort to find. If a sponsor mentions an upcoming trial, it means they are actively planning for the future. Finding this information is as manual as it gets. Zymewire can help you to scour the web and find this information in an easier way. Tucked in a HOOKIPA Pharma Press Release is a sentence that indicates their plan for a phase III trial, where they will start enrolling in the fourth quarter of 2024 - hopefully this tidbit can serve as a lead for you oncology-focused folks. 

Final Thoughts

The key triggers we've discussed are essential for staying competitive in the clinical trial industry. Being strategic and well-informed will significantly enhance your chances of building successful partnerships and advancing your clinical site’s reputation.

Stay ahead in the clinical trial landscape by subscribing to our blog for more expert tips and strategies.  Share this blog post on social media and within your professional network to help others stay proactive and informed in securing clinical trials.


Happy Hunting, and may the trials be ever in your favor! 


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