Meet Dr. Arlene Dent, Medical Director, Medpace
Medpace is pleased to announce that Dr. Arlene Dent has joined Medpace’s infectious diseases and vaccines medical leadership team.
Dr. Dent is board-certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases with over 20 years of clinical experience in inpatient and outpatient pediatric infectious diseases practice. Her experience includes working with premature severely ill babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, patients in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Transplant and Hematologic/Oncologic patients who may be severely immunosuppressed, and general pediatric patients admitted with severe infections.
Her experience in managing study participants with infectious diseases will be valuable, particularly when it comes to protocol development, international regulatory needs, informed consent form (ICF) and Case Report Form (CRF) development, data analysis, communications, and overall strategy.
In this brief interview, we learn more about her background and the expertise that Dr. Dent brings to Medpace.
Tell us about your background: what expertise do you bring to Medpace?
I started my pediatric infectious diseases fellowship in 2002, accumulating over 21 years of experience in clinical infectious diseases, primarily inpatient in the hospital. My focus was primarily seeing the sickest children, ranging from premature infants in the neonatal ICU to children in the pediatric ICU to children in Hematology/Oncology Units, as well as children from the broader community facing illnesses. One thing I like about infectious diseases is that we see children of all ages up to the age of 24.
A significant portion of my time was spent in research, with a primary emphasis on human immune responses to infectious diseases, especially as related to HIV and malaria. I’ve worked around the world, including Kenya, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand, in diverse areas that span resource limited countries to resource developed countries. With 20 years of collaborations with colleagues in Kenya, the UK, Australia, and across the US, I have extensive international connections and global health knowledge. Some of my research in Kenya was to understand vaccine immune responses of infants longitudinally over time as related to their malaria exposure and HIV exposure in pregnancy.
Additionally, part of my clinical work involved serving as a travel medicine clinician, where I met with people preparing to travel and provided preemptive advice to optimize their health while they travel. My background encompasses anti-malarial medications, vaccines, yellow fever, typhoid, and more. Due to this background, I am familiar with infectious diseases around the world, how to prevent them, and how to treat them.
In addition to my clinical and research background, I served as Vice Chair of the University Hospital Institutional Review Board (IRB). This role equipped me with regulatory expertise from the IRB side, especially for patient safety. My role extended beyond the US regulatory processes to global regulatory processes, including writing protocols, writing informed consents, and reviewing Kenyan IRB submissions. I have a comprehensive understanding of global regulatory processes from the perspective of both submitting the protocols and reviewing the protocols.
What drew you to Medpace?
Medpace’s reputation for excellence and global reach stood out to me. Medpace is a global CRO with offices around the world spanning 6 continents, which I love because of my background working around the world. Additionally, the number of different types of studies drew me to Medpace because it is intellectually stimulating and I will always be learning. The work at Medpace involves many different interventions, spanning vaccines, therapeutics, and monoclonal antibodies. Finally, the rapidity of the industry interested me because it moves clinical advances faster than academic medicine.
What is the biggest challenge specific to infectious diseases clinical development?
One of the biggest challenges we face in infectious diseases clinical development is that viruses, bacteria, and fungi can mutate very quickly, as we saw in real time with the coronavirus pandemic. We also grapple with the challenge of multi-drug resistant bacteria, for example, tuberculosis. The threat of mutation and drug resistance underlies the complex nature of infectious diseases and is a very tangible risk that we must keep in the forefront of our minds.
From a clinical development standpoint, what new innovations are you most excited about?
There are several innovations that I’m excited about that we’ve seen in the last few years. First, monoclonal antibody therapeutics are exciting for not only infectious diseases but also other areas such as oncology and rheumatology. I think there is going to be a great expansion of indications for these interventions in the near future.
The development of antibiotics and new antivirals targeting mutations is another promising trend. Addressing these mutations through next-generation sequencing is a huge opportunity in infectious diseases and it can help us to tailor certain interventions. We have seen this innovation in real time with the pandemic, and I think it will continue to expand as sequencing technologies become less expensive and faster.
Additionally, there are newer diagnostic abilities in infectious diseases, mainly nucleic acid-based technologies, that allow for faster identification of pathogens and resistance patterns. This allows us to tailor therapies and identify bacteria within a few hours rather than the traditional 48-hour period for growing the bacteria.
Finally, an exciting innovation we’ve seen in recent years is mRNA vaccines, which have been unprecedented in the speed of development. The mRNA technology is going to be applied to a number of different diseases and holds great promise in advancing clinical development, which is a very exciting prospect to be a part of.
What motivates you and your interest in clinical research – specifically in infectious diseases?
My interest in global health began at a very early stage in my career during a two-month rotation in northern Cameroon when I saw firsthand the impact of infectious diseases on resource limited communities. My interest was initially in tropical diseases like malaria, but during my 21 years of clinical practice, I saw how infectious diseases affected families and children of all different types from around the world, expanding my interest in infectious diseases.
One of the things I like about infectious diseases is the tangible prospect of a cure. The work we are doing to accelerate the clinical development of safe and effective medical therapeutics can lead to a cure for infectious diseases, and people can go on and resume their normal lives.
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