Arif Elvan
Dr. Arif Elvan

We’re proud to announce that on 2nd May 2021 Diagram Research celebrated its 25th anniversary.

A Contract Research Organization (CRO) and SMO specialized in cardiovascular research, we’ve been researching all scientific matters of the heart since 1996, across 25 countries and 173 hospitals.

In the upcoming five years, we’re branching out across the globe to make the world a healthier place, one heart at a time.

Our CEO dr. Arif Elvan looks back on the last twenty-five years and talks about his main goal to transform the organisation into a sustainable Diagram 2.0.

Ground Breaking Research From The Picturesque Town Zwolle In The Netherlands

Twenty-five years ago, a group of pioneering interventional cardiologists (Prof. Felix Zijlstra, Prof. Menko-Jan de Boer, Prof. Jan Hoorntje and Prof. Harry Suryapranata) based in the beautiful town of Zwolle, drastically improved the treatment of heart infarction. Their ground breaking study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and their treatment strategy became the new standard worldwide.

After their revolutionary study Diagram was founded, initially as a Site Management Organisation (SMO) to support clinical research locally and soon the CRO was added.

Since 1996, the organisation has continued to grow, performing an impressive 252 real-evidence trials and rapidly becoming an expert in ambulance studies and e-health projects.

Throughout all those years, cardiovascular research projects have always remained Diagram’s focus.

Unique And Agile Thanks To Our Size

Our smaller size opens up opportunities to facilitate Investigator Initiated Studies (IIS) with limited budgets.

It’s Diagram’s mission to be unique and flexible in the management and execution of clinical scientific research. Dr. Arif Elvan explains: “When it comes to size, we’re relatively small. This allows us to have closer contact with our clients and to be more flexible than larger organisations.”

Dr. Elvan continues: “Our smaller size also opens up opportunities for Principal Investigators with small budgets. Their Investigator Initiated Studies often aren’t interesting or financially viable for the bigger CRO’s, but we’re able to facilitate studies with limited budgets and realise them locally.”

As an example dr. Elvan names the DETECT AF study; a screening study in asymptomatic individuals at various occasions, such as Housekeeping Fair. In this study, an ambulant ECG of the heart was registered to check for atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disturbance that can cause stroke. Of note, early detection and treatment of this arrhythmia can prevent devastating complications, such as stroke. Dr. Elvan: “I strongly believe that prevention is better than cure.”

From The Yellow Pages Towards Diagram 2.0

Only together we can make this company successful and resilient.

When dr. Arif Elvan joined Diagram a couple of years ago as CEO, he was tasked to turn Diagram into a sustainable organisation with solid, healthy growth.

To achieve this, he feels Diagram needs to branch out: “We’ve specialised in a new field of expertise: pre-market studies. In these studies the aim is to evaluate safety and efficacy of the investigational product or medical device. This means we test products not yet on the market, and we support our sponsors to receive CE-certification and to get FDA approvals.”

Recent examples are the CEL-02 study that will be presented at EuroPCR and the ambulance (pre-hospital phase) study Celebrate, both headed by Prof. Arnoud van ‘t Hof as Principal and co-investigator.

Diagram also started to actively attract studies from abroad. “Today we’re doing business with Europe, the US and Asia. We’ve learned that our market is so much bigger than we ever imagined. The challenge today is to ensure we don’t grow too fast, we need to give the organisation and its people time to adapt to this growth,” says dr. Elvan.

Here he stresses the humane aspect of his task, because to establish healthy growth you need a strong team and a great work environment. Initiatives like an open-door policy and off-site brainstorms where employees can share out-of-the box ideas all show Diagram’s commitment to its employees. “Only together we can make this company successful and resilient,” dr. Elvan shares.

With all these exciting developments, Diagram’s marketing and communication also had to be adjusted. The classical channel of networking has been strengthened with more modern initiatives like social media and a refreshed website. Dr. Elvan refers to the movie ‘The Apprentice’ with Robert de Niro: “We need to move from the traditional Yellow Pages towards a modern Diagram 2.0.”

Today you can act and react much easier and faster than twenty years ago.

We’re wondering if clinical scientific research has changed over the years?

“Absolutely, a lot has changed,” dr. Arif Elvan confirms. He proudly adds that Diagram has contributed to some beautiful developments in the field, for example with our contribution to the EAST-trial (Early treatment of Atrial fibrillation for Stroke prevention Trial). This study showed that a contemporary rhythm control strategy for atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disturbance, drastically reduces the chances of complications such as stroke.

He continues: “The research landscape is changing, studies are becoming bigger and are often done across borders, the world is becoming smaller. Today you can act and react much easier and faster than twenty years ago.”

When asked about other shifts he’s expecting, dr. Elvan mentions the Far East: “Traditionally we’re Europe and US-oriented, many new things originate there. But we shouldn’t forget to keep an eye on the East, on China for example. They’re heavily investing into research and I believe we can expect great things coming from that direction.”

Making Health Care Manageable

To make health care manageable, we need to find smarter solutions.

When it comes to adapting to trends and developments, Diagram has been playing a leading role in e-health projects. Dr. Arif Elvan explains: “The need for hospital care is increasing rapidly, but unfortunately you can’t increase the number of hospital beds in line with the ageing population, that would be unaffordable. We need to find smarter solutions.”   

As an example he mentions ‘tele-care’: the possibility to monitor patients at home from a distance. Diagram has specialised in this relatively new field: “We have the expertise to safely gather, manage, store and present your patient’s data, following all protocols and abiding by all laws.”

Dr. Elvan adds: “Making health care manageable is the main goal here. And if we, as Diagram, can play a role here with our expertise, then of course that’s fantastic.”

Plans for the future

In five years’ time, Diagram Research is an internationally oriented research organisation, run by a strong capable team, performing a variety of cardiovascular studies and trials.

A lot has happened over the last twenty-five years. We ask dr. Elvan what he hopes to achieve in the upcoming five?

“We are a research organisation and we want to stay one,” dr. Elvan says. He shares our four pillars for the future:

  1. To expand our PhD-trajectory: training talented people to become researchers;  
  2. To further broaden our range of trials;
  3. To continue international expansion, thus minimising local market dependency;
  4. To invest in our people, nurturing a great work environment and people culture.

Dr. Arif Elvan concludes: “In five years’ time, Diagram Research is an internationally oriented research organisation, run by a strong capable team, performing a variety of cardiovascular studies and trials.”

With a new logo and a strong vision, Diagram Research is ready for the next 25 years.

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