• RKes Starling

Oh, Shift!


Such a tidy phrase, this roll-up of a favorite expletive into a socially acceptable call to action. “Oh, shift” captures the current mood in the world: We are in a tough spot and need to make some swift, bold decisions. It’s clearer every day that things we have taken for granted—going to work, starting school, socializing—can not be taken for granted.

In the biopharma world, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to pivot from the traditional clinical trial model to a more flexible structure, one that takes the study to the patients rather than bringing the patients to the study sites. In this new paradigm, a multi-site trial might mean thousands of patient homes rather than a dozen research sites. It’s a pivot that’s not easy to make, but whoever guessed that such a large portion of the workforce would be working from home? For months.


“Shift,” for sure.

Exponential changes are now part of our daily existence. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every part of our life—from education to the workplace to how we ensure safety and innovation in medicine. We may understand that shifts happen and are required almost every day but rarely do we live and breathe such frequent, earth-shaking changes.


In 2008, a video called “Shift Happens” appeared on YouTube. Created by Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod for the California State University, the video attempted to quantify vast worldwide shifts occurring in education, population, economic development, and communications. By the time the video dropped it was already out of date. Twelve years later, how far the world has advanced beyond the promise of this video is almost ridiculous, because, as the video states, we are living in exponential times.

If “Oh, shift!” is the 2020 call to action, “Shift happens” may be the phrase of 2021, the year when the technological solutions quickly patched together in 2020 acquire best practices, a track record, and provide for previously unimagined possibilities to emerge. The need to define endpoints that depend on patient-reported data while also working to include populations that lack access to the internet are just a few of the challenges that need to be addressed as soon as possible.


In the biotech and pharma sector, the patient-centric clinical trial may cost less than on-site data collection. A decentralized model may reduce timelines and reveal more about patients than we’ve ever been able to know before. As the world changes, new problems are revealed and different solutions emerge. Different pathways to progress become visible, possible, and perhaps even preferred.

So, shift, because the shift is happening, like it or not. Let’s shift with purpose, toward innovation and progress.



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