Introduction to Optimal
We are people on a mission. Our aim is to reduce suffering and help people worldwide gain a better quality of life. We are dedicated to being one of the top research sites in Asia-Pacific.
Optimal Clinical Trials is a private, independently owned, clinical research site in central Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city – with a population of over 1.4 million people. Optimal has grown rapidly and is a Deloitte Fast 50 company and winner of multiple awards.
We specialise in conducting commercial phase 1b to 3 trials across a wide range of therapeutic areas, with a team of expert investigator doctors and specialists at the fore.
We regularly work with the world’s largest Pharmaceutical companies, Contract Research Organizations and Biotechs. We are internationally recognised for our speed, quality and responsiveness to clients’ needs.
“They have consistently been the fastest and highest recruiting site we have ever worked with”
– US Biotech
To make everyday lives better by conducting world-class research centred on high recruitment, retention and rapid enrolment with high-quality data.
Optimal exists for the greater good of people. Our aim is to discover better, more efficient, more accessible treatments for people the world over. We’re future driven – we strive to find medicines that could help each one of us, our children and generations to come. We rely on the expertise of our people – our researchers, doctors, nurses and coordinators – it’s their passion and enthusiasm which moves our clinical trials forward. We also rely on the goodwill of our volunteers. Without their wish to be a part of the medicines to market journey, nothing can be achieved. Together we create change and we achieve optimal results.
We know you will enjoy working with our highly qualified team with over 50 years of combined clinical research experience. Our specialist principal investigators are experienced and engaged, supported by sub investigators, research nurses, study coordinators, clinical trial assistants, pharmacists and phlebotomists. Our onsite investigators have experience in over 50 commercially sponsored clinical trials.
Dr Barney Montgomery
With over 18 years of medical experience, and investigator roles in over 40 commercially sponsored clinical trials, Barney founded Optimal Clinical Trials in 2013. He graduated from Otago Medical School in 2002 and has worked in New Zealand, the UK and Australia. As well as an experienced principal investigator, Barney is also a general practitioner. Barney has a wide variety of interests and his areas of special interest include: asthma, vaccines and dermatology. He has always fostered a strong desire to help people. He cherishes his role conducting research that forms the backbone of evidence-based medicine, and helping develop new medications to ease suffering and improve people’s lives.
“As doctors we often take our ability to prescribe medicines for granted, but every single drug needs to have a huge amount of research to ensure it is safe and that it works. I love being part of that process and know we are helping people on a large scale.”
Barney lives happily in Auckland with his wife Penny, sons Charlie and Jonty, daughter Honor and their dog Macy. Barney has been involved in starting several successful businesses, played basketball for New Zealand as a junior and loves doing anything active.
Dr Liz Smaill
When completing her Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at Otago Medical school, Liz forged greater appreciation for the pressures and problem-solving in the medical world.
From time spent in Wellington, Auckland, and the UK as a doctor, to management consulting specialising in government health initiatives, she relishes her role at Optimal helping lead a team of research professionals.
“The ongoing reward of a career in the medical realm is the people factor. Seeing improvement in a patient’s medical condition is a highlight, knowing the data you’re collecting may reshape lives is invaluable, and working alongside our team, who share equal passion is a privilege.”
Liz enjoys the mix of knowledge and application of working in the clinical research field – fulfilling goals and meeting deadlines. She values the positive and enthusiastic environment the Optimal team bring every day.
Outside of work Liz can be found out running, or exploring the art galleries. She is also a keen foodie and happy to provide restaurant recommendations!
Our principal investigators
Dr Annika Lam
Annika’s background is in general medicine and she is a fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. She has a special interest in geriatrics and has extensive experience as an investigator, in both principal and sub investigator roles. Perfectly suited to research, she has an exacting eye for protocol detail. Annika loves meeting new participants and the team work required to deliver complex studies. When she is not at work, you will find her swimming at Auckland's beautiful beaches or travelling the globe.
Dr Becka Griffith
With 20 years of experience in paediatric and neonatal care, Becka is a committed research investigator. She has experience with complex clinical trial protocols and is able to effectively manage the needs of paediatric patients and their families. Becka is also completing her PhD on the long term outcomes of children born at risk of neonatal hypoglycaemia.
Dr Janet Titchener
Janet is an American trained Family Physician with subspecialisation in diabetes. For the past 15 years she has been the medical director of GPSI Diabetes – a primary care based diabetes specialty service. Janet is board certified in advanced diabetes management, board certified with the American Academy of Family Physicians and a Fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. With over 10 years of clinical trial experience and numerous publications to her name, Janet is passionate about providing better treatment options for people with diabetes.
Dr Ravi Suppiah
Ravi is a New Zealand trained rheumatology and sports medicine specialist, who undertook specialist fellowship training at Oxford, United Kingdom. He is committed to research, and providing the best available care. Ravi is also a clinical lead for the rheumatology service at Auckland District Health Board, and holds a specialist role at Auckland Rheumatology and Sports Medicine. Alongside his weekly commitments, he is regularly invited to speak at major international conferences.
Dr Penny Montgomery
Penny is a founding director of Optimal, alongside her husband Dr Barney Montgomery. She is a general practitioner with a special interest in dermatology. She is experienced in administering dermatology scales including EASI, H&R criteria and IGA assessments, and has been the PI for atopic dermatitis studies with dupilumab – now an FDA approved drug. Penny loves staying active – she is a keen runner and skier, and her three children and dog ensure she is always on the go!
Dr Hui Lim
Hui is a general practitioner and investigator with a special interest in geriatrics. Throughout her medical career Hui has been involved in research both nationally and internationally.
Dr Summer Hassan
Summer is an Egyptian trained doctor, with experience across the board. Beginning her career at Optimal as a clinical efficacy assessor, before transitioning to study coordinator, Summer now fulfils the role of sub investigator. Her career path has afforded her a unique skill set and she is able to negotiate complex protocols drawing on her previous experiences. Outside of Optimal she is pursuing her surgical career at Auckland hospitals.
Dr Claudette Lionnet
Claudette is originally from South Africa, where she trained as a doctor and had just started her training in Anaesthesia prior to immigrating to New Zealand with her young family. She is skilled at managing complex projects, identifying ways to simplify the processes and establishing synergistic teams. Claudette enjoys connecting with participants, values working in a team environment, working towards a common goal and having fun along the way! Outside of work, Claudette loves being involved in community projects, spending time with her family and walking her pugs.
Kathryn holds a post-graduate diploma in clinical research and has over five years experience as a research coordinator. Kathryn’s skillset is in ethics review and she supports the Optimal team with expert knowledge. She has run many complex protocols and has phase 1 experience. Her special interest is the gut microbiome. Outside of work Kathryn enjoys keeping active in her garden, running and ocean swimming.
Rania is an experienced medical lab scientist, holding a post-graduate diploma in clinical research, and is a qualified phlebotomist. Prior to joining Optimal, she worked as a pharmaceutical sales coordinator. Rania joined Optimal as a clinical trial assistant, before moving to her current role as a study coordinator. Her special interest is endocrinology and immunology. She is a dedicated mother of three and enjoys cooking.
Kasuni holds a bachelor of science in human biology having a major in Clinical Biochemistry. She has previously worked in the clinical research industry in Sri Lanka and United States, before moving to NZ. Kasuni has experience in coordinating phase 2 and 3 trials, and she gains great satisfaction being a part of the process which can directly affect and improve the health and well-being of people’s lives. Outside of work Kasuni enjoys baking and being a mother.
Before joining this industry as a research nurse, Angel worked as a registered nurse in a medical and surgical ward. As a student nurse she worked in the hospitality industry – affording her a greater skillset in customer service and building rapport with people.
Providing the best care for everyone and making a healthy difference in the community, is a journey Angel is proud to be a part of. She enjoys talking to participants – witnessing their enthusiasm at taking part in a trial and making a difference – which makes her role all the more fulfilling, and she values working within a positive team environment at Optimal.
Sharon started her career as an emergency department nurse. She approaches work with a systematic and detailed manner, whilst always making sure patient safety is at the forefront. She loves the diversity of clinic visits – interacting with patients, whilst collecting quality data.
Amanda is the friendly face you see when you first arrive at Optimal. She is dedicated to making sure all visitors have a welcoming and enjoyable experience. Being a mother of five, Amanda is skilled at multitasking and ensures our clinic runs like clockwork. Outside of work she coaches netball and is passionate about the NBA.
Dr Kim Diwa
After working as a general practitioner in the Philippines, Kim has chosen Auckland as her home. In addition to her medical degree, Kim holds a bachelor of science in public health (University of the Philippines) and a post-graduate diploma in public health (University of Auckland). She loves the mix of clinical and research work that this industry offers. Outside of work, Kim enjoys calligraphy.
Sweta is an experienced data manager, with a deep knowledge of EDC platforms. Her attention to detail means that quality data is captured accurately and data consistency is maintained. She holds a masters degree in science biotechnology. Sweta is a proud mother of one.
Dr Mike Murphy
Mike graduated in Medicine and Pharmacology at University College London. He has trained in Adult and Paediatric Emergency Medicine, within New Zealand over the last 10 years, developing interests in health risk assessments and the field of Toxicology. In his role as an investigator in clinical research, he is a passionate advocate for participants health, well-being and safety.
Dr Hallie Low
Hallie is a Malaysian-trained doctor. She joins Optimal as a clinical trial assistant and provides general support to the team. She enjoys interacting with participants during clinic visits and always ensures quality data is collected. Hallie believes quality data is key to producing good quality research.
Dr Elena Canepari
Elena is an Italian trained General Practitioner. Before moving to New Zealand she worked in clinical practice, developing a special interest in Public Health and Primary Care. Elena believes that a wide and thorough health care approach, focused on evidence-based practice and emotional empathy, is the best way to make a difference to people’s wellbeing. She values the opportunity of working as a Study Coordinator at Optimal Clinical Trials, alongside a team of likeminded professionals. In her free time Elena loves travelling and meeting new people
Jenny joins the team as a clinical trials assistant where she supports the team in recording accurate and high quality data. She is proud to be a part of the Optimal family who are passionate about making a difference. She holds a Master’s degree in Biomedical Science and is eager to expand her knowledge of clinical research.
Namita holds a bachelor's degree in Botany & Zoology and studied Graduate Diploma in Science from the University of Auckland. She has previously worked as a Laboratory Technician in Auckland before joining the Optimal Team. She enjoys processing samples and trying out new and different methods to simplify work, making it fun at the same time. Outside of work, Namita likes to play a sport or board & arcade games with friends & family.
Eva Antony is a Clinical Trial Assistant, involved in processing of samples in our laboratory. She moved to New Zealand from India, and is pursuing her Ph.D. under the School of Chemical Sciences, at The University of Auckland. In her spare time, she loves to sing and enjoys reading.
Sayali holds a Master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences and has more than 5 years of experience in clinical research Sayali has a broad knowledge of clinical research having worked as a Study Coordinator, Data Manager, Administrative Assistant and now as a Clinical Trial Assistant for Optimal.
These roles have given her the opportunity to work on many complex protocols and EDC’s. She believes in quality and accuracy towards her work. In her spare time she enjoys shopping, eating and spending time with her family.