March 29, 2022 News & Features » Cover Story

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Annette Bennett, 38 

Chief executive officer and research director, Clinical Research Partners

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Scott Elmquist

When Annette Bennett was 20, she started nursing school and quickly discovered it wasn’t her cup of tea.

But when a family friend who was director of clinical research at VCU offered to train her in clinical research, she jumped at the chance. “Back in the day, you couldn’t get a degree in it, unlike now,” Bennett says.

By the time she was 28, she’d partnered with Dr. Robert Call to open Clinical Research Partners, the largest clinical trial company in Virginia. As co-founder and CEO, she handles the day-to-day operations of the clinic. When the pandemic hit, Bennett and the company went into overdrive. “We had to staff up immediately, going from 20 employees to 100 practically overnight,” Bennett says.

The enlarged staff kept busy performing COVID treatment studies - overseeing the study for AstraZeneca, the vaccine being used in Europe – as well as oral treatment trials and antibody trials. “It was satisfying because we were helping prevent COVID, but also working on treatment options,” she says. “I’m finally learning not to work six days a week, but we’ve been in go mode.”

Just last year, Bennett founded Infusion Solutions, providing patients with private infusion suites for IV therapy. An entire COVID unit, the only stand-alone outpatient unit in Virginia, had to be built out and new protocols put in place. “If you gowned up for the COVID unit, you couldn’t just go up and see the regular patients,” she explains. “We’ve provided treatment for over 2,000 COVID patients.”

Currently, Clinical Research partners is working on vaccine trials that address COVID and the flu. “We need to provide education for patients so they understand that this will be treated like the flu, just a once or twice a year vaccine you get,” Bennett says. “I don’t see challenges, I think, how can we solve this?”

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