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Rima Darwiche

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Meet Rima Darwiche, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Central Pharmacy Logistics, Australia’s first licenced service providing Direct To Patient investigational products for clinical drug trials.

Rima joined WEHI in 1998, undertaking her honours year with Professor Thomas Kay in the autoimmunity division. “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and after completing my degree, I worked as a research assistant in his lab for about seven years.”

In 2014, Rima returned to WEHI as a Clinical Research Manager, where she oversaw a range of clinical trials and was responsible for managing the provision of investigational products to the patient.

“It was an area I became very interested in. I noticed many trials had trouble recruiting patients, resulting in delays to get the research trials underway and it was commonplace to see wastage of investigational products for a variety of reasons.”

Above: Rima was featured in a photo essay of the Metro Tunnel hoardings that paid tribute to the workers of the Parkville Medical Precinct in September 2021

It was at a conference in the USA in 2015 that Rima had a ‘lightbulb moment’ after attending several talks around an emerging ‘Direct To Patient’ (DTP) model. The decentralised model of clinical trials, or DTP, provides an alternative to the traditional trial, which involves the patient going into a hospital.

This model ultimately leads to a higher patient retention rate as the convenience means participants are more willing to stay committed. Higher retention means greater amounts of data, earlier trial completion and significant cost savings.

“I knew this model would work well in Australia and overcome many of the issues I’d seen during my time managing trials. I returned here on a mission, and immediately begun feasibility research and planning,” says Rima.

Fast forward to January 2020 when Rima officially launched Central Pharmacy Logistics (CPL) Australia.

“As a start-up in clinical trials, every step along the way has involved milestones and turning points,” says Rima.

“Firstly, it was getting licenced by the Pharmacy Authority to send investigational products to a patient’s home.

“Shortly after launching, the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded – it was such a frightening and uncertain time.

The silver lining for my new business was that the DTP model became in demand, as hospitals restricted access to minimise the risk of a COVID outbreak. We couldn’t build the facility fast enough to begin work for clients and sponsors.”

A huge milestone for CPL has been the recent Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) license awarded by Therapeutic Goods Administration.

In early May, Rima travelled to San Antonio, Texas, as an invited speaker at the Global Clinical Supplies Group 2022 Conference, where she delivered a talk on Decentralised Trials and DTP clinical trials in the Asia-Pacific

“Australia is fast becoming the world’s centre stage for clinical trials due to our pragmatic regulatory system, best-in-class health care system and patient pool diversity. The last time I was at this conference was 3 years ago as a delegate. How life has its interesting twists and turns.”

Six questions with Rima

What did you find out about yourself during lockdown?

Since COVID-19 I have found a love for camping. I’ve enjoyed camping around Victoria and it’s helped me manage stress and the pressures of the past couple of years. I have discovered that being out in nature is what I really love, including walking barefoot and connecting with the environment.

Which living person do you most admire?

Malcolm Turnbull for being a nice and good human while trying to manage the challenges of being a politician at the same time – that would have been a tough gig. My other favourite living person is Norman Swan as he speaks sense during the pandemic while our Government confused and divided the Country. I also forgot to mention Professor Marc Pellegrini, my boss and absolute support at WEHI and my current career.

Your guilty streaming pleasure?

I don’t have a great deal of spare time; however I did binge on Handmaids Tale and The Crown during lockdown! I also love watching anything to do with space and flight.

What are you reading/listening to?

Love listening to Ludovico Einaudi and World music (flow type for relaxation)

Have read many motivational books but currently trying (no time) to read Norman Swan’s What is good for you.

Above: Rima at her new facility in Coburg North, which has just received accreditation from the TGA.

Favourite movie of the past decade?

Too many favourites especially from Australian cinema, such as The Castle and Muriel’s Wedding. One of my current favourites is Contagion with Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, and how real that fictional plot has become.

What are you excited about in 2022?

The thought of growing CPL and getting more services up and running and enhancing processes excites me.

Connect with Rima on LinkedIn
Visit Central Pharmacy Logistics website

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