It’s the job of biostatisticians everywhere to deliver accurate assessments of data they have gathered. What’s more, that data is the result of their planning of clinical trials so even the initial stages are of utmost importance. The information revealed by this work can be life-changing and life-saving, the latter aspect being more relevant than ever due to the ongoing health pandemic.
It’s this new level of awareness and interest from the general public that has brought people like Dr. Dorian Wilkerson to the forefront. Given the amount of time he has worked in this field, Dr. Wilkerson also feels that it’s important for readers to know about all the behind-the-scenes efforts that go into compiling data that is truly useful. This website will spotlight that work and also show readers the vast amount of planning, research and study that goes into medical and scientific data collection. Let’s get started!
Clinical trial planning and follow-ups
Dr. Dorian Wilkerson holds a degree in biostatistics, which allows him to combine statistical and mathematical data and theory to gather and analyze information related to biology. He also has experience with bioinformatics and statistical programming code, which both add depth to his clinical trial work. This education has allowed him to work on important projects with tangible results. His daily work on clinical trials begins with a methodical approach to calculating a trial design and sample size. Sample size determination is often completed using software such as NCSS PASS, Cytel EAST, StatSols nQuery, or SAS. These steps will be followed by randomizing patients to the treatment method that is being tested in the trial. This randomization allows for more accurate interpretations of results. For example, participants may have been given an actual treatment and would then be compared to those who received a placebo. Choosing the appropriate analysis method will vary between trials, as the number of participants and purpose of the trial will always be different.
At the culmination of the clinical trial’s test period, it will be up to biostatisticians like Dr. Dorian Wilkerson to interpret results while liaising with colleagues. This interpretation will be conveyed to medical professionals, surgeons, programmers and more as the information gleaned from the clinical trial is getting closer to being actionable. The trial’s information will be transformed into datasets, summarized and analyzed in Data Monitoring Committee/Data Safety Monitoring Board review meetings. This interdepartmental process will often require technical solutions while using the process as a training opportunity for less experienced biostatisticians. Analysis and interpretation is a huge part of the clinical trial process and Dr. Dorian Wilkerson is responsible for developing the methodology, programming, data display and handling rules. While these trials can reveal trends and even more accurate forecasts of figures, the results and lessons learned in the process can help fine-tune future projects. For example, inputting data into computer systems and software can render results in a format that’s better suited to convey complex information to non-specialists.
‘Neighboring’ roles in informatics
The analytical skills of biostatisticians can be incredibly valuable when put to use in the right ways. The observations they make can be used by those in medicine to make a vaccine that is more effective. According to the peer-reviewed open access journal BMC Medical Research Methodology, “the tasks of biostatisticians in clinical trials are not limited to the analysis of the data, but there are many more responsibilities. It is a quite misguided view that biostatisticians are only required after the data has been collected.” The study goes on to explain the many duties of a biostatistician during a clinical trial, which includes monitoring of the study, interim analyses and being “involved in the discussions and decisions as otherwise the integrity of the study can be damaged.”
What’s more, bioinformatics is a line of work that is equally important but not always understood by those reviewing trial results. The study views this as a “neighboring” role; it’s also one that Dr. Dorian Wilkerson is familiar with. Per the study, “bioinformatics is a science for the research, development and application of computer-based methods used to answer biomolecular and biomedical research questions.” Further, “generated data are often pre-processed by bioinformaticians before it reaches the biostatistician. Pre-processing of sequencing data, for instance, usually comprises quality control of sequenced reads, alignment to the human reference genome and markup of duplicates previously to the identification of somatic mutations and indel.”
Readers should acknowledge that this role is close to that of a biostatistician, but not exactly the same. Thus, it’s important for the layman — as well as the doctor or scientist digesting the results of a clinical trial — to see that observations and input are coming from two different parties.
Check back soon!
As previously stated, the practical applications of biostatistics and clinical trials have never received so much attention. That’s because new vaccines aimed at ending the coronavirus pandemic are the result of similar trials. The world will welcome these treatments with open arms, but it’s the duty of medical and scientific experts everywhere to roll out something safe and effective. The impact these vaccines will have toward bringing the world back to normal are profound; that’s why it’s so important to get the planning and testing phases right. Dr. Dorian Wilkerson is incredibly familiar with designing those phases so that accuracy and actionable results and rendered. For that reason, we encourage visitors to check this website often for updates. Dr. Dorian Wilkerson will provide additional insight into the realm of clinical trials and how the data gathered in a lab can transform our overall health and daily lives.