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Research Revolutionaries: Dr. Alexander Abitbol

In the ever-evolving landscape of clinical research, breakthroughs and personal narratives weave together to shape the future of patient care and medical innovation. At the heart of these advancements is a dedicated community of researchers and investigators, among them Dr. Alexander Abitbol, a principal investigator at Centricity Research. With a career focusing on critical areas such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, Dr. Abitbol exemplifies the pioneering spirit that propels healthcare forward.

In this interview, Dr. Abitbol shares insights gleaned from moments in research, patient stories that have influenced his career, and the exciting prospects he envisions for clinical research. From trials that promise to transform diabetes management to cutting-edge gene editing research aimed at combatting cardiovascular diseases, Dr. Abitbol’s reflections offer a glimpse into the future of medicine—a future where innovation, empathy, and patient care converge to improve lives.

1. Can you share a moment in your research at Centricity that you feel was a pivotal point for innovation in your field? How do you see this influencing the future of clinical studies or patient care?

“As the leading primary investigator for early phase research at Centricity, I’m fortunate enough to come across many new and exciting developments in clinical research, especially for diabetes. Recently, the early phase clinical research team and I worked on an insulin-only clamp trial studying an exciting new molecule made by Zucara for people affected with type 1 diabetes. This molecule, a somatostatin receptor 2 antagonist, is meant to restore a natural counterregulatory response which is lost in type 1 diabetes, thus significantly reducing the risk of hypoglycemia, a feared complication for anyone treated with insulin. Beyond hopeful benefits for many of my own patients in the future, the study was conceptually quite challenging. Clamp trials involve reducing someone’s blood glucose in sequential stages, in safe and supervised research settings. In this case, however, we were conducting a first for clamp trials, where the molecule being investigated theoretically hinders the aim of the trial. We were both highly successful at completing the study and even demonstrated promising benefits for the molecule, which will soon be available following the publication of the results. Further, Centricity Research and Zucara have already moved into phase 2 development for this exciting new molecule.”

2. Throughout your career in clinical research, is there a particular patient story that has stayed with you? How has it influenced your approach to your work or the direction of your research?

“I’ll always consider myself a physician first and investigator second, so it’s often the patient stories that stay with me. I’ve been given many opportunities in my career to present to other healthcare professionals locally, nationally and internationally, but I also enjoy presenting to patients and their families. One year during a type 1 diabetes ski trip organized by Centricity for adolescents and their families, I presented the latest developments in continuous glucose monitoring technology. Some were even given the opportunity to participate in the Senseonics study. This study allowed participants with type 1 diabetes to wear an implanted sensor for 6 months. Sensors have greatly evolved since that study, but even then, the beneficial impact these devices had for our participants both to improve glycemic control and their quality of life was evident and continued beyond the study. I know since some of these participants became my patients (when they turned 18) and are still in my practice today. The current landscape favours a disposable continuous glucose monitor with relatively short wear, but I’m eager to continue studying an ever-expanding arsenal of diabetes tech on the horizon.”

3. Looking ahead, what are the most exciting developments you anticipate in clinical research over the next decade, and how is Centricity Research positioning itself to be at the forefront of these advancements?

“We’ll soon be starting a gene editing trial with Verve Therapeutics. This single course of treatment is designed to permanently turn off the PCSK9 gene in the liver, thus reducing circulating levels of LDL cholesterol, and correspondingly the burden of associated cardiovascular disease. Many patients affected by cardiovascular disease or who have a high risk of cardiovascular disease are currently recommended a lifelong regimen of lipid-lowering medication. This novel strategy may one day offer a ‘one and done’ approach to a cornerstone principle in both treating and preventing cardiovascular disease, without the usual pill burden.”

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About Dr. Alexander Abitbol:
Dr. Alexander Abitbol has been conducting research studies with Centricity Research since 2015.  After relocating to Toronto and joining the LMC Healthcare group, he began his research work as a sub-investigator on various endocrinology studies, and later became a Principal Investigator.

He started his medical journey at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, where he completed his medical degree in 2010. His postgraduate training unfolded at the same institution, focusing on Internal Medicine before delving into a sub-specialization in Endocrinology and Metabolism. Throughout his residency, Dr. Abitbol was recognized for his exceptional leadership and scholarly excellence, culminating in his role as chief resident and the recipient of numerous awards across all stages of his education and training. His dedication and expertise were further acknowledged through certifications in Internal Medicine by both the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Abitbol is committed to treating patients in all areas of endocrinology and metabolism. He has a particular interest in applying technology towards improving diabetes care and management, and his recent research focused on developing the artificial pancreas.