DURHAM — Velocity Clinical Research is celebrating.

The company, founded in 2018, has had plenty of wins, including recent partnerships with Merck and Privia Health. And earlier this month the company was ranked 543 on the Inc. 5000 list of Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the U.S.

But on a hot Thursday afternoon in August, Velocity staff was celebrating the opening of its most recent site in Durham by sponsoring a back-to-school event at Eastway Elementary School. CEO Paul Evans attended and Community Outreach Manager Joesph Henderson helped at the grill working to feed hundreds of students and parents.

“I thought it went really well. The children were ecstatic to be back at school and then to have a cookout on their lawn,” said Henderson. “It was wonderful.”

Velocity staff at cookout

Velocity team members Kian Edwards, Lee Lawson, Dr. William Cromwell, and Joseph Henderson.

Community Engagement

Henderson is the kind of thoughtful and enthusiastic person you want at your community events. While he’s soft-spoken he is also genuinely eager to talk to you and find out how he can help. Though he only joined the company in April of this year, he has known Evans for years and helped facilitate the company starting in Durham. Henderson himself is a lifelong Durham resident and – according to Evans – knows “everybody.”

That’s key in clinical research. The importance of diversity in clinical trials cannot be overstated, and Velocity is well aware of the challenges that the pharmaceutical industry faces in this regard. With the underrepresentation of diverse populations being a critical issue, the company aims to bridge this gap with diverse recruitment strategies and by building community trust. Henderson plays a pivotal role in creating connections and building that trust.

“I’ve come to see Velocity as this part of a global partnership for good in medicine. And my role as I look at it, is to bring as many people into that sphere as possible and to make that partnership as rich and as diverse socially, economically, and racially as I possibly can,” Henderson explained. “It has been a wonderful fit for me, I think, to have the freedom to just stop the car and to get out and say ‘I need your help’.”

Velocity’s Growth Reaches NC

Velocity has worked to expand its reach by acquiring new research sites. Now, five years in, the company has over 80 sites in 25 states, plus clinical locations in Germany and the UK. Despite this reach, the company had never opened an office in North Carolina. Until now.

Headquartered in Durham, the company was seeking new space to make room for expanding staff. When they heard there was an extra floor of space in their new site on Main Street, the company realized this could be the opportunity to achieve a major milestone and finally get a clinical site in NC. The new Durham site will officially open its doors next month.

Evans confirmed that the company continues to look for new sites, both in NC and internationally.

Durham-based Velocity: We’re world’s ‘largest clinical research network’ after latest deal

“The business of getting drugs approved and getting drugs in the hands of patients is a global business,” said Evans. “Clinical research is notoriously inefficient. The downside of that is patients don’t get the drugs [or] don’t get them quickly. There’s a huge opportunity to continue to grow.”

The company is also looking to open up sites with a specific focus on certain diseases. Currently, their sites are primarily focused on general medicine, meaning everything from basic vaccines to arthritis. However, Velocity is hoping to open other sites with a more targeted focus on specific therapeutic areas, such as oncology, rheumatology, or gastroenterology.

Ongoing Efforts

Face painting

Maria Evans, wife of CEO Paul Evans, takes advantage of the face painting.

Last Thursday’s Back-to-School cookout was the celebration of that upcoming milestone and an opportunity to engage with the local community, enjoy a cookout, and learn more about the company’s mission. But Henderson knows it will take more than one event to bring folks into the new site and secure participation.

“I’m used to having doors slammed in my face but that’s part of it. You’re not going to win every one. But you have to keep stopping and keep asking, ‘Can you help me’?” said Henderson. “If you can lay it all out and explain it to them, how they can help themselves, their community, and the world at large you have a good chance of getting people involved.”