By Michele Kok, Research Associate in Public Health, University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol.

My research around patient and public involvement (PPI) is for COMBACTE, a European-funded private-public partnership between academia and the pharmaceutical industry. Each year, COMBACTE holds a General Assembly hosted in one of its European partner countries. This year it was held from 12-14 March in Bucharest, Romania. I love travelling and have never been to Romania, so was naturally very excited to be able to attend! In this blog post, I shall share my reflections on what I thought was a successful trip, and throw in a couple of pointers at the end for those planning to visit the city.

Some background

COMBACTE consists of four projects. PPI is part of COMBACTE-MAGNET (Combatting Bacterial Resistance in Europe – Molecules against Gram Negative Infections) Work Package 6i. One of our major outputs was a toolkit for involving patients and the public in antimicrobial medicines development research, which our team produced in collaboration with the Bristol-based PPI Panel for Antimicrobial Drugs between September 2016 and August 2018.

The COMBACTE General Assembly 2019 featured PPI in two sessions: a one-hour open workshop on Wednesday 13 March and a short talk in the specific COMBACTE-MAGNET General Assembly the following day.

Our workshop was well attended

‘Practical aspects of implementing PPI in antimicrobial medicines research’ was the title of our workshop aimed at promoting and supporting the use of the PPI toolkit. Participants were from various organisations and job roles, including principal investigators from industry and academia, and even the Chair of the European Forum for Good Clinical Practice.

In the spirit of collaboration, we asked interested participants to identify which stage of the antimicrobial medicines development lifecycle was most important and relevant to their own research ahead of the workshop. Their selections helped us plan the topics to focus on; PPI in research agenda-setting and clinical trials. Participants were engaged and raised useful questions for discussion. There was a sense of increased awareness and interest in PPI within COMBACTE.

This was similarly reflected in the response to Andy’s talk the next morning, where several key people wanted to know how he thought PPI could be embedded in COMBACTE-NET, and what could be done to increase patient awareness of the importance of antimicrobial research, to encourage patient involvement. COMBACTE-NET is the network responsible for generating innovative trial designs to facilitate the registration of novel antibacterial agents.

Final thoughts and tips

After years of persistence and hard work, our team was very pleased with the success of this year’s workshop and the raised profile of PPI within COMBACTE. There is more to be done to ensure PPI is embedded in antimicrobial research and to promote best practice, but I left the General Assembly with a feeling of personal satisfaction (and relief) at the work done so far.

I had extended my stay in Bucharest and over the next few days, learned so much about the interesting history of the city and country. I highly recommend free walking tours in any European city you visit. Besides famous places, they take you to ones you would never have discovered on your own and give you insights that only a local could. If, like me, you enjoy trying local traditional food, I recommend papanaşi, a Romanian dessert of fried doughnuts served with sour cream and mixed berry jam!

Papanaşi

Papanaşi

Michele at Primӑverii Palace

Selfie by the swimming pool in Casa Ceausescu (or Primӑverii Palace) – notice the mosaic!

If I’m fortunate enough to attend next year’s COMBACTE General Assembly, I shall be sure to share my reflections when I return. For now, keep calm and keep doing PPI!