Our commitment to advancing public health

At ICON, we recognise access to healthcare as a fundamental human right.

Collaborating with clinical trial investigators and customers, we have made a difference in improving patients’ lives and advancing UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3: Good health and wellbeing. In 2023, we focused on broadening access to clinical research by bringing it directly to patients. We have developed a network of novel services that puts patients at the centre, increases diversity in clinical trials and improves access to both trials and care. We strive to continually innovate and modernise clinical trials while taking the time for feasibility testing to ensure that our methods work. In uncertain times, our established ecosystem allows us to endure and to improve outcomes.

Driving patient-centric innovation

At ICON, we understand that clinical research operates within an ecosystem. To this end, we leverage technology, data and partnerships - both internally and externally - to increase patient access to clinical trials and drive innovation in operational models. Our tools and resources allow us to focus on core areas, with an emphasis on bringing a people-centric approach to supporting patients and customers throughout the trial process.

Updating the ICON Digital Platform

In 2023, we updated the ICON Digital Platform, an end-to-end solution designed to reduce barriers to trial participation and streamline patient services throughout the clinical trial including eConsent, In-Home Services, Televisits and digital health technologies, among others. These updates help under-represented groups overcome obstacles to enhance flexibility and prevent the financial impact of potential disruptions in working schedules.

AI reduces risks involved in drug development

ICON has embraced the future of clinical trials with the adoption of robust AI and machine learning capabilities. Our Cassandra solution is a learning model that combines AI and human expertise to mitigate risks of drug development. Specifically, Cassandra is trained in real world evidence, including trial features and FDA and EMA decisions. The model allows ICON and our sponsors to proactively plan for post-marketing requirements, define a mitigation strategy earlier in the drug development lifecycle and implement additional early safety monitoring to avoid post-authorisation safety studies.

Diversity in clinical trials

Representative trial populations in clinical research are a key factor in driving equity. Inclusive research generates richer data that paints a fuller and more accurate picture of the treatment landscape and the treatment effect of these therapies on the real-world populations that need it most.

ICON’s patient-centric philosophy includes a multipronged approach to increase the diversity of everyone involved with our clinical trials, including clinical trial participants, CRAs and investigators. We have focused on the evaluation of emerging regulations, customer needs and developing new and innovative solutions, including the following: 

  • Ensuring broad eligibility in protocols and removing avoidable site and patient barriers to relevant populations’ participation by:
    • Interrogating eligibility criteria
    • Providing flexible assessment schedules and ensuring coverage of logistical barriers 
    • Considering robust decentralisation strategies, such as telehealth and technology 
  • Recruiting and supporting sites that serve underrepresented populations and supporting them with tools such as unconscious bias training and cultural competency, as well as support in mitigating lack of trust and bias in referral networks
  • Building an inclusive patient trial experience by ensuring that patient tools are culturally and linguistically appropriate to resonate with diverse patient populations

ICON joins Beacon of Hope collaboration

In 2023, ICON joined Beacon of Hope, an innovative ten-year collaboration launched by Novartis and the Novartis US Foundation together with 26 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), including four HBCU medical schools, and Merck, Sanofi, the National Medical Association, Thurgood Marshall College Fund and Coursera, among others. The goal of this initiative is to create effective, measurable solutions for health equity by focusing on the following:

1. Enabling the next generation of leaders by empowering African American, Black, and Hispanic students to become healthcare leaders 

 2. Establishing clinical trials centres of excellence at the four HBCU Medical Schools to increase diversity in clinical trial investigators and extend research as a care option to the participants they serve. Tinaya Gray serves as ICON’s representative to support site capacity building in these Centres of Excellence

 3. Creating two additional research centres for excellence that focus on the areas of data standards and the impact of challenges with regards to the environment and climate that disproportionately impact under-served communities

Our commitment to our employees

ICON succeeds as a company thanks to thousands of devoted employees who deliver our services globally and ultimately help improve patient outcomes. In 2023, we made it a priority to enhance and strengthen the activities of our community groups, with a heightened focus on diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIB). Our aim was to expand our groups’ membership while supporting events that would help employees feel visible and recognised.

A culture of diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIB)

As a global, values-driven organisation, we acknowledge and celebrate our differences in gender, ethnicity, culture and abilities. Respecting diverse viewpoints and experiences is foundational to our interactions with each other and with our patients, customers and suppliers. We strive to build teams that reflect the various geographies and communities in which we live and work and the patients we serve.

Overall ICON is 72% female and 28% male. As at 31 December 2023, female representation broken down at the management levels was as follows:

  • 44%

    VP level and above
  • 60%

    Directors and above
  • 67%

    Managers and above

Our goal is to achieve gender parity at the VP level and above by 2025. By the end of 2023, 44% of all promotions at the VP level and above were female, progressing our gender parity goal to 44% female—a two percentage-point increase from 42% female as at 31 December 2022. As of 1 April 2024, 48% of VP level and above were female.

ICON promotes DIB through five community groups that bring together employees with common identities and interests. Group members and allies act as advocates throughout the company. Their goal: to align activities, promote events and share information across their service lines.

Invisible Disabilities Week and People Leader Accommodation Guide

In October 2023, Invisible Disabilities Week was a significant success at ICON, both for employees and for our DIB values. DAWN was proud to bring this event to ICON sites worldwide, with over 60 ICON offices participating. Globally, one in six people lives with disability, and of those people, up to 80% experience a non-visible form of disability. Forty-five ICON colleagues from various countries shared their Sunflower Stories as part of Invisible Disabilities Week. The sunflower serves as a worldwide symbol for invisible disabilities, representing the unseen challenges faced by these individuals. To further support our people with disabilities, we developed a People Leader Accommodations Guide. This manual offers direction for leaders to help them recruit diverse candidates. It also aids in promoting a sense of belonging among newly hired team members.

Our commitment to strengthening our communities

ICON employees seek out ways to make a positive difference in the world each year. In 2023, we launched the ICON Charity Matching Program, supporting 38 organisations. This program aligns with the ICON Cares social pillar, as well as our company values of integrity, collaboration, agility and inclusion. The ICON Charity Matching Program bolsters our colleagues’ fundraising efforts, fosters partnership across and within teams, and furthers our company’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Full- and part-time employees can participate, allowing them to recognise the creativity and effort involved in employee fundraising while improving the lives of people who are less fortunate.

Further examples of how we made a difference in 2023 include:

Supporting employee-nominated charities

ICON continued our end-of-year charity donation program, in which colleagues from around the world nominated 450 charities to be considered as one of 10 organisations to receive a $10,000 donation. Each charity chosen for this program is one that ICON had not supported previously, furthering our goal to fund as many different organisations as possible. Among the causes selected in 2023 were charities that aim to improve child welfare, help patients with chronic diseases and work towards building a more inclusive society.

Emergency appeal

In early 2023, an earthquake devastated areas of Türkiye and Syria. ICON aided UNICEF’s response to the disaster, providing a donation to help families and children affected by the quake receive life-saving supplies. Through our assistance, thousands of babies and children were given blankets and winter clothing. Displaced families also received hygiene kits with soap, water purification tablets and dignity kits, while expecting parents received emergency birth and post-partum kits with diapers, pads and blankets.