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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a clinical trial?

A clinical trial is an investigation where medications, vaccines and other therapies are tested on people who volunteer to participate.

Doherty Clinical Trials performs what is known as early phase trials. Participants in early phase trials are usually healthy volunteers and the investigation is designed to see if the potential treatment or vaccine is safe. Later phase trials can investigate whether a treatment works or is better than any treatment already available.

What is a human challenge trial?

A human challenge trial is a type of early phase clinical trial that allows researchers to test the effectiveness of vaccines and therapeutics for infectious diseases, with the aim of making potential treatments for infectious diseases more rapidly available to communities.

Human infection challenge trials involve applying a well-characterised infectious agent in healthy volunteer participants within a controlled environment. The infectious agent is applied either after the volunteer has been vaccinated with the trial study vaccine, or before they have received the treatment in development. This order of events allows the vaccine or therapy to be tested for safety and effectiveness.

These trials are carefully designed to ensure researchers learn meaningful information with the greatest potential to decrease the impact of infectious diseases globally.

Why are human challenge trials important?

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us the importance of being able to rapidly understand infectious pathogens and produce and test effective vaccines and treatments to decrease global disease and deaths.

Human challenge trials give critical real-time information which allows for rapid development of effective vaccines and treatments.

Will I be paid?

As a participant in a clinical trial, you will be reimbursed for your time, travel expenses and parking, including for trials involving visits to clinics during the day.

For human challenge trials, you may need to stay on site for several days. So depending on the length of the trial, the reimbursement amounts can add up.

Reimbursements are not assessable income for tax purposes and don’t impact social welfare payments.

If you can’t complete the trial, you’ll get a partial payment to cover your time. You might not be paid for screening appointments unless this is specified in advance.

Are human challenge trials safe?

Like any medication, vaccine or treatment (and even some over-the-counter products!), human challenge trials carry some risk and potential for side effects. 

To minimise any risk, all the infectious pathogens used are very well understood and all treatments or vaccines have already been tested for safety over many years before they are used in human challenge trials.

Human challenge trials in Australia adhere to a high level of ethical and regulatory requirements.

All trials are approved by an experienced, independent Human Research Ethics Committee registered with Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council. Australia has strict requirements for clinical trials and we follow all guidelines and regulatory requirements including those set out by the principles of Good Clinical Practice, the Therapeutic Goods Administration and Medicines Australia.

Can I volunteer?

The types of people who can participate in each trial depends on the purpose of the trial and the information the researchers would like to collect. The type of participant required for each study is dependent on the specific trial and will be described in the recruitment materials. This will give you an early idea about what the researchers are looking for. The early screening process will give you more information about your eligibility.

During the screening process, our team will advise you if you are suitable for the trial in progress. If you are not, there may be other trials for which you fill the selection criteria.

What is the screening process to become a participant?

All clinical trials have criteria for participants. These are designed to decrease risk for participants and help researchers select the people who help them answer the research questions the trial is investigating.

All volunteers will need to provide consent to participate and will be asked to answer medical questions specific to the trial. You will be assessed by a doctor and have medical examinations to make sure it is safe for you to be involved in the trial.

What is it like to participate in a human challenge trial?

You may need to stay on site for a human challenge trial. Volunteers in our trials stay in Australia’s only unit specifically devoted to human challenge studies. In addition to the highest quality facilities for our researchers, as a participant our team will look after you and make sure you are comfortable, healthy and safe.

But there’s more. All meals are provided and we can accommodate your dietary requirements. The space includes areas for you to relax and kick back and you’ll have access to entertainment – TVs, PlayStations and WiFi. Feel free to bring your work or study with you. You can set up your laptop for study, work or for a chat with your friends and family.