Fellows Spotlight: Alejandra Avalos-Pacheco

Alejandra is a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Regulatory Science
Hometown: Mexico City
Research focus: Statistics in novel clinical trial design
My name is Alejandra, and I joined the CRS team because I am interested in using my statistical training to provide a better understanding of diseases, to ultimately improve patient health and quality of life. Regulatory science is an interdisciplinary science by nature, as it promotes the collaboration between different areas such as mathematics, medicine, law, and administration. My current research in Lorenzo Trippa’s group at Dana Farber aims to design hybrid clinical trials that can minimize costs by reducing the sample size, maximizing the possible benefit to patients within the trial by enrolling less patients into the control group, and providing more accurate treatment effect estimates. After this fellowship, I hope to continue developing novel statistical tools to analyze the efficacy of new treatments. If you are curious about regulatory science or what we do at the center, please feel free to reach out!


1. Why did you choose to pursue this fellowship opportunity?
This fellowship program is aimed at improving and accelerating drug development using novel applications of regulatory science. I was immediately attracted by the opportunity to develop not only theoretical models, but also practical tools for data analysis in close relationship with Boston’s medical community. I was also interested in learning about all aspects and relevant processes related to the development and improvement of therapeutics. More specifically, this fellowship allows me to design more efficient clinical trials to fight cancer through novel data-driven approaches.

2. What piqued your interest about regulatory science?
My research in regulatory science allows me to exploit my technical knowledge to develop novel statistical models that provide new insights into drug development and regulatory decision making. Regulatory science is an interdisciplinary science by nature, as it promotes the collaboration between different areas such as mathematics, medicine, law, and administration. Moreover, it fosters interaction between the academic research community, industry, and regulatory bodies.

3. What does your current research focus on, and who do you work with?
I am part of Dr. Lorenzo Trippa's group at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the Department of Data Science. Our research aims to incorporate external data (such as electronic health records and previous trials) into the design, execution, and evaluation of clinical trials. In contrast to traditional clinical studies, we design trials that minimize costs by reducing sample size, maximizing benefits to patients, and providing more accurate treatment effect estimates, all while preserving operating characteristics required by regulatory agencies.

4. What is your favorite thing about being part of CRS?
I deeply value the academic excellence of the center, which gathers outstanding researchers from different disciplines with the common goal of improving patient health through the innovation of biomedical techniques and regulatory pathways.

5. Can you describe your background and where you came from before this fellowship?
I first studied actuarial science and worked as a senior actuarial analyst for a few years in Mexico City. I then decided to pursue a career as a statistician and obtained a master’s degree in statistics from the University of Warwick. I next did a PhD in statistics within a joint program between Oxford and Warwick (OxWASP) where I developed statistical methods for genomic data analysis, particularly for the treatment of cancer.

6. Can you describe a challenge you have faced and what you learned from it?
I have always worked in rapidly developing research areas where several groups develop ideas and publish papers at a fast pace. Sometimes it is challenging to keep up with all the relevant works and emerging methodologies to maintain my research at the cutting edge. This led me to intensify collaboration with other research groups, interact with other scientists, and discuss joint research plans.

7. Where do you plan to go next?
My plan is to further pursue my career as a biostatistician in a research center or university where I can make a significant contribution to medical innovation. I would like to keep developing novel statistical tools that test the effectiveness of new treatments via regulatory decision making and, in general, provide a better understanding of diseases to ultimately improve patient health and quality of life.

8. Is there anything else you want to share?
If you have any queries about the activities and the research conducted by the center, or if you feel curious about regulatory science in general, do not hesitate to get in touch!

Email: avalos@hms.harvard.edu
Twitter: @AleAviP