Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane Gastroenterology partners with Velocity Clinical Research

In its Washington entry, Velocity conducts clinical trials through Preiksaitis’ gastroenterology office

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-Karina Elias
Gastroenterologist Dr. Harold Preiksaitis says the practice he founded is participating in a number of clinical trials now.

Velocity Clinical Research, a national corporation with 28 dedicated research sites, has partnered with Spokane Gastroenterology Clinic PS, marking the clinic Velocity’s entry into Washington state.

Spokane Gastroenterology, established in 2016 by Dr. Harold Preiksaitis, has been conducting clinical trials focused on gastrointestinal diseases since 2018 in its current 5,000-square-foot clinic at 907 S. Perry, on the South Hill.

Velocity is headquartered in Durham, North Carolina. The company provides support to biopharmaceutical and contract research organizations to find patients for clinical studies. According to the company’s website, Velocity was founded in 2017 and has completed over 5,000 clinical trials in multiple therapeutic areas.

“The infrastructure that goes into all of this is unbelievable,” says Preiksaitis of running clinical trial research. “If you’re a solo practitioner who has an interest in getting involved in clinical trials, (Velocity) basically provides all the administrative structure to help you do that.”

A lot of clinical trials occur in university settings or larger hospital settings, which typically treat the sickest patients, whereas a community-based practice can provide a more realistic picture of community health, he contends.

When the pandemic first started, Velocity began downsizing in anticipation of ceasing clinical trials. However, Velocity soon became increasingly involved in testing the COVID-19 vaccines. What seemed like a time to downsize, was actually a time to get busy, Preiksaitis says.

Preiksaitis’ own practice closed for two months during the start of the pandemic while it adjusted to the new rules and changes. Preiksaitis didn’t lay off staff, because he obtained financing through the U.S. Small Business Administration-backed Paycheck Protection Program.

“We’ve been able to manage,” he says.

“Although we didn’t participate, we were all proud of the effort Velocity had made in bringing these vaccines out,” Preiksaitis says, explaining that his site didn’t have the size or expertise needed for vaccine clinical trials.

Preiksaitis has 10 employees, including two who work under the direction of Velocity and a part-time nurse that works for both Velocity and Spokane Gastroenterology. Under the relationship with Velocity, Preiksaitis agrees to participate in certain trials and provides oversight of trial activities here, and the Velocity-directed employees are responsible for finding subjects who want to be part of the trials, answering questions, and organizing paperwork and documents needed.

Preiksaitis and his team have several ongoing trials that focus on inflammatory bowel diseases, which include non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Crohn’s disease, Clostridium difficile, irritable bowel syndrome, and celiac disease. The team focuses mostly on phase 3 clinical trials, which are large tests of safety and effectiveness of potential new treatments.

“It’s when the rubber hits the road,” he says “We do placebo control. It’s a blinded trial, and we try to ascertain what the therapeutic gain is for whatever intervention we are looking at.”

In addition to clinical trials, Preiksaitis has partnered with Madison, Wisconsin-based Exact Sciences Corp. in a study to improve the company’s at-home colon cancer screening test, Cologuard. The test examines stool samples to determine whether a patient needs a colonoscopy. To improve the test, Preiksaitis provides samples from patients over 65 to Exact Sciences, with patient consent. The company is conducting in-depth analyses to refine and improve the at home kit.

“We’ll be happy to have brought that along,” says Preiksaitis, who has been a practicing gastroenterologist and liver specialist for more than 20 years.

The next step for Velocity in Spokane is finding its own space and facility so the company can expand and bring in other investigators with expertise in different areas of medicine, he says.

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Karina Elias
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Reporter Karina Elias covers the banking and finance industry. A California native, she attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. Karina loves salsa dancing, traveling, baking, cuddling with her dog, and writing creative fiction and non-fiction.  

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