The New Kid on the Block

This summer Alion Science and Technology – a global corporation which did nearly a billion dollars in FY12, launched a new subsidiary, Alion Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) Accreditation Services. Alion HRPP advertises itself as “a comprehensive solution for organizations —government, non-profit and for-profit— that conduct, manage or review research involving humans.”

Dunh, Dunh, Duuuuunnnhhh! How exciting right? Not so much…? Well this could very easily be a game-changer folks. For over a decade, the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPP) has been the “gold standard” in human subject program certification. Alion HRPP’s official announcement represents a new competitor in an industry essentially developed and dominated by AAHRPP.  Alion has been around for over 75 years and provides services to the defense, civilian government and commercial industries.

Here is why I think this this will be a fun duel to watch.

  1. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know! Alion, a longtime provider of IT, engineering and operational solutions for the Department of Defense brings a built in constituency and industry contacts. Over the last year, Alion has courted the DOD and signed multi-year contracts to accredit all the Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospitals in the country with a Federal Wide Assurance (FWA.). Instantaneously, client numbers jump to approximately 50 sites in a mere 4 months. Additionally, they’ve used their defense affiliations to support the recent accreditation of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, a Department of Defense University Affiliated Research Center (UARC).
  2. Leadership. Does the name Peter Vasilenko, MD sound familiar? Well if it does that’s because Peter was a former Vice President at AAHRPP for many years. There’s also Michael Pagliaro, RN, the former Director for Accreditation at AAHRPP. Both of these former AAHRPP major players are now in integral roles with Alion’s new accreditation program. No doubt they will be able to add years of industry, accreditation and business experience to the budding company. Earlier this year Marjorie Speers, PhD. announced that she would be stepping down as the founding President and CEO of AAHRPP. It was announced in September that Elyse Summers J.D., of OHRP, had been named to replace Dr. Speers effective in mid-October.  Losing Dr. Speers, a key pillar of AAHRPP since its inception, adds a new layer of intrigue to the accreditation body adapting to Alion’s entrance into the marketplace.
  3. The Alion Difference. Alion bills their accreditation process as unique and potentially superior to that of AAHRPP. I had the opportunity to speak to Stephen Crawford, the Executive Director of Alion HRPP, who shared with me that the biggest problem that he hears from AAHRPP clients is that the on-site/adjunct accreditation team provides mixed recommendations and an inconsistent application of the policies.  Alion’s model differs in that each client has dedicated staff that is committed personally to seeing the client through to accreditation.
  4. Competition Drives Prices Down. Anyone who’s going up for accreditation knows that there is a significant financial investment when taking the leap to become certified. Alion, has a pricing model that is on average more than 50% less than AAHRPP when comparing fees by program size. Alion seeks to eliminate the upfront costs that are typical when applying for AAHRPP accreditation. I’m sure over the next several years there will be some fluctuation in the fee models of both companies.
  5. AAHRPP’s not too happy about it all! Back in September, the VA announced that they were involving the Office of General Counsel to settle issues related to AAHRPP sending letters to several VA centers stating its intention to revoke their HRPP accreditation. The VA quickly announced that no VA centers were required to pay any scheduled fees to AAHRPP moving forward and that they would be transitioning to Alion Accreditation in the next few months.

Whether Alion with its deep pockets, industry contacts, poached leadership and new accreditation model takes center stage and becomes the latest new sensation is yet to be known. One thing that we can say is that they’re definitely here with all the flash and impact of the new kid on the block.

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