Why developing PACE? Interview with Marieme BA, CEO.

A professional programme that provides job-ready clinical research professionals to the industry Interview with Marième BA

Marième BA 
Chief Executive Officer of PACE Ltd Chief Executive Officer of Pharmalys, CRO established in London, UK and Dakar, Senegal Home (pharmalys.com)

Pharmalys Academy of Clinical research Excellence (PACE) is a school that provides a comprehensive professional training programme in clinical research. You’ve been a clinical research professional for more than 25 years, what gave you the idea to create PACE?

MB: I have always been fond of training people and developing vocations in clinical research (CR). CR is not widely considered as a career path by science graduates, and I wanted to offer new career perspectives to them. In parallel, I was aware of the gap in skilled clinical research professionals globally, and Africa is no exception. By launching PACE, I wanted to contribute significantly to the strengthening of the African clinical trial ecosystem. Working with adequately skilled clinical research professionals is crucial for the quality of clinical studies, and consequently for the CR industry to provide evidence which is credible and beneficial to trial data. Like many others, I see the expansion of research as a promising way of alleviating economic disparity and a means of addressing local health problems, to further improve health within communities.


What makes PACE programme so unique?

MB: I wanted something different. Not just another training course in clinical research or in Good Clinical Practice. PACE teaches learners how to become competent professionals in this field. Not only do we give instructor-to-learner courses, but we enable our learners to practice what they’ve learned. The whole concept is that PACE learners must have the right mix of theoretical knowledge and hands-on training. It is not an academic master’s degree – although the volume of contact hours with internationally renowned experts is higher than most master’s degrees. The intensive programme was built as a journey in a clinical trial with a very practical approach based on real case scenarios, breakout sessions, role plays, etc. While following the course, the students connect with an exceptional range of experiences, individuals, and opportunities, and benefit from close peer-to-peer and learner-to-instructor interactions. By choosing qualified, professionally oriented instructors with diverse backgrounds and experiences, we focus on invaluable real-world insight and facilitate professional tips shared with our learners. PACE is a 9-month curriculum beginning with a 3-month live online course, followed by a 6-month internship where a large part of the training is dedicated to practice. We do not believe shorter courses would be adequate to prepare job-ready young professionals for a demanding industry. However, the specificity of PACE training goes beyond that, as we also prepare the learners for the work environment through a soft skills training, aiming to familiarise them with assertiveness, conflict resolution skills, problem solving techniques, and time management skills, to name but a few. In addition, at the beginning of the programme a mentor is assigned to each learner. The mentors are experienced clinical research professionals responsible for accompanying and sharing their field expertise with the learners throughout the duration of the course to consolidate their skills and knowledge. Last but not least, the uniqueness of this programme is highlighted through our commitment to;

  1. Training young science graduates with high international quality standards to provide competent CR professionals who hit the ground running at the beginning of their careers.
  2. Giving our learners the opportunity to make contributions they have always wished for within the world they live in. In a nutshell, PACE is a true career changing opportunity. Read more: PACE: live the learning experience | PACE (pace-cr.com)


Who is the targeted audience of PACE?

The course is open to any international science graduates. Life and/or social science BSc and/or Master graduates, or candidates with a scientific or health qualification, such as nurses, can apply for the programme. Graduates and professionals from technical fields such as biostatistics are also eligible. Fluency in written and spoken English is required for all of our learners to make the most of the training programme and keep up to pace with group interactions and classroom discussions. Learn more: Who is concerned? | PACE (pace-cr.com) Having relevant pre-entry experience such as a sales representative role in pharma or health sectors, laboratory research or data management is a plus. Last but not least, the programme can be adapted for full time professionals. An option currently in high demand, this adaptation allows learners to complete the course in parallel to their full time position, resembling an apprenticeship model.


What would you like to say to those who may be interested in beginning a career in clinical research?

I would say to anyone who is passionate about human health and is interested in pursuing a dynamic, fulfilling and rewarding career, apply to the PACE programme Clinical research: an exciting career path | PACE (pace-cr.com). Our course aims to provide the best learning experience one can offer. Our curriculum was developed with the input from the different stakeholders of the sector such as industry experts, subject matter experts, and employers. The programme is also delivered by highly qualified instructors whom we have selected with careful consideration from around the world, so that their international experience can be shared with learners. Our first PACE cohort commenced on 3rd April 2023, and the feedback from the learners as well as from the instructors thus far is both positive and enthusiastic. The learners are not only aware of the quality of the teaching; they acknowledge that the practical and technical aspects of the related jobs are systematically addressed in parallel with the academic learning. They have completed their 3-month academic course and are close to completion of their internships at Pharmalys – making contributions to important projects within their entry level positions. This is the reason they feel motivated and engaged in this programme. Once the programme is completed, they will really be job-ready. The instructors are also committed to the PACE initiative and have developed real world practice-oriented courses, with numerous breakout sessions to effectively develop the knowledge of our learners. Let me take the opportunity here to thank all our instructors and course developers for their incommensurable commitment to build talents for tomorrow. For anyone who is interested in beginning a career, or strengthening his/her knowledge in clinical research, we welcome you to apply to the PACE programme and expand your experience, preparing you for the clinical research industry. Read more: Admission process | PACE (pace-cr.com)


What would you like to say to those who may be interested in recruiting PACE graduates?

The PACE programme intends to bridge the gap between learning and working in the clinical research field. Our objective is to ensure our learners can join an organisation following completion of the course. Where they can apply their knowledge and begin working as part of clinical operations, regulatory, data management, statistics, pharmacovigilance or quality assurance teams, to name but a few. We can build the necessary skills and fill the staff shortage in this field by giving each learner an opportunity to thrive, and we have no doubt they will deliver, given they will be sufficiently equipped to do so! We are looking for organisations that are willing to offer placements, internships or permanent entry-level positions to young scientists who complete our PACE programme. We are also looking at establishing institutional and corporate partnerships with organisations that would be able to sponsor students and fund all or part of their tuition fees to improve youth employability, especially in Africa where unemployment is particularly prevalent, despite obtaining a recognised academic degree. Last but not least, we invite all organisations that conduct clinical trials, to consider sponsoring their employees to participate in our high-level PACE training programme. This unique curriculum is designed to elevate skills, knowledge, and practical experience within the clinical research industry. Read more: Corporate Partnerships | PACE (pace-cr.com)