An international award named for McMaster University’s founding father of Canadian evidence-based medicine has been brought home for the first time by a research team from the department he established.

McMaster researchers have won the 15th annual David Sackett Trial of the Year Award for their research of potential COVID-19 therapeutics under the worldwide TOGETHER Trial, which began in June 2020.

Sackett, who passed away in 2015, founded the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CE&B) at McMaster in 1968, the first of its kind in Canada.

The award named after him is given by the Society for Clinical Trials to researchers whose trials demonstrate scientific excellence, ethical conduct, improves the lot of humankind and significantly change health-care practice.

“David Sackett was one of my first mentors, so it is particularly satisfying to win an award named after him,” said TOGETHER trial co-principal investigator Edward Mills, professor of the CE&B department now known as the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact (HEI).

“David was a remarkable clinical scientist who changed the way that medicine is practiced. Chief among his contributions was his recognition of the need to partner with colleagues, both junior and senior, giving them the recognition and mentorship that they deserved,” he said.

“David and his wife Barbara were among the first senior academics who ever really extended his hand to me. If David were standing in front of me today, I would appreciate him for the exuberant love that he extended to so many junior investigators.”

Mills said the TOGETHER trial reflected Sackett’s values of partnership and collaboration, by bringing together researchers from Canada and other countries to evaluate the efficacy of existing medications in combatting COVID-19.

The TOGETHER trial has, so far, evaluated 16 medications. Mills said the TOGETHER trial is a “perpetual platform,” that is being expanded to assess the effectiveness of repurposing existing medicines against all types of respiratory viruses. The trial is currently running in Brazil, South Africa, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Vietnam and Canada.

“Our intention is that this trial infrastructure goes on forever, evaluating many interventions for conditions affecting global needs,” he added.

“The Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact is delighted by this success,” said Alfonso Iorio, chair and professor of HEI.

“Given that our department was founded by David Sackett, this award named after him is coming home in the truest sense of the word. We are particularly happy that we are being recognized in this manner by the Society for Clinical Trials.”

McMaster staff that are co-investigators in the trial include professors Lehana Thabane, Gordon Guyatt, Kristian Thorlund, Jay Park, and Sheila Sprague, as well as senior research staff such as Paula McKay and Jamie Forrest. A frequent McMaster collaborator, Prof Gilmar Reis, from Belo Horizonte in Brazil, is co-principal investigator of the trial.

The trial has been funded by the FTX Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, FastGrants, and the Rainwater Charitable Foundation.



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