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B2B More Than Successful Athletic Event

By Jenny Callison, posted Oct 31, 2013

Officials at PPD hope that increasing visibility for its annual PPD Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon, held last Saturday, will translate to more participants in the company’s clinical trials.

The Wilmington-based clinical research organization (CRO) conducts trials all over the world for its pharmaceutical and biotech clients, testing the safety and efficacy of new medications designed to treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions.

“We want to help educate the public on the importance of clinical trials; that they can be a good option for people who are looking for cutting edge treatments under close medical supervision,” said PPD spokesman Ned Glascock.  “We also want to reach out to doctors and medical people who have not considered doing CT before, to raise awareness in the medical community about the importance of being involved in the clinical trials to help us, as a society, advance medical treatments for their patients. Those treatments might open up avenues in ways they hadn’t considered before.”

When PPD signed up as B2B’s title sponsor in 2010, Glascock said, the company felt there was an interesting connection between tackling a grueling long-distance race and taking part in a clinical trial.  “Both are long and require commitment and endurance if you’re going to have a positive outcome,” he said.

PPD’s decision to spotlight several “heroes” each year – former clinical trials participants who have beat their illnesses and are able to participate in the B2B triathlon – reinforces the message of courage, commitment and success, Glascock said.

Pharmaceutical development is highly regulated and the strictly prescribed procedures mean that the process is all about big numbers. Companies like PPD must recruit many – sometimes thousands of - potential participants to end up with the specific population needed for a clinical trial. Glascock cited one recent protocol that involved about 2,500 participants in multiple countries spread across several continents and time zones, and lasted for five years.

And then there’s the cost.

“One in 25,000 compounds that are looked at actually makes it into your medicine cabinet,” he said. “The cost of bringing one drug online is $1 billion and takes, on average, at least a decade.”

Meanwhile, the numbers are getting bigger for the B2B triathlon. Established by the Wilmington Family YMCA and SetUp Events in 2007, the race attracted nearly 900 racers in 2008, its first year.  Participation has grown steadily, with the numbers for this year almost triple those of 2008, and those 2,318 participants coming from 42 states and 19 other countries.

“Our vision was to bring athletes from all over the world to Wilmington because it’s such a wonderful destination,” said Dick Jones, the local YMCA’s president and CEO.

That “wonderful destination,” support of Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington, and the prowess of SetUp Events in organizing and publicizing the triathlon, have combined to create a successful race, Jones said.

Proceeds of more than $100,000 from this year’s triathlon, combined with the funds raised through the YMCA’s annual campaign, will enable the Wilmington Family YMCA to provide $250,000 in financial assistance to individuals and families, Jones said.  He also pointed to the triathlon’s significant economic impact on the Cape Fear area.

“We fill a lot of restaurants and hotel rooms during the week of the event,” he said. “We don’t have numbers yet from this year, but last year, for example, we generated almost 4,000 hotel nights.”

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