San Diego, CA

UC San Diego Health Leads the Way for San Diego Clinical Trials


“The TrialJourney database has allowed us to see that UC San Diego Health is lynchpin of San Diego’s clinical trial landscape,” said Dr. Irfan Khan, CEO of Circuit Clinical. “We hope that insights such as this increase awareness of this health system, as well as notable others, across the greater San Diego area in the realm of clinical research as a care option.”

Ranked as the 28th-largest Designated Market Area (DMA) by Nielsen in 2017, San Diego has conducted 9,776 clinical trials since the inception of their tracking. This is an impressive total considering its DMA rank, as similar amounts of clinical trials have been conducted in more highly-ranked cities, including Tampa (with 9,597 trials and ranked 11th by Nielsen), Phoenix (9,738 trials while being ranked 12th), and Raleigh (10,699 trials, and ranked 24th)1,3. Notably, Phoenix boasts a population roughly 150% that of San Diego’s (with 3,140,069 residents), while Tampa compares very similarly to San Diego in population4. Further, San Diego has conducted significantly more trials than similarly-ranked cities, including Nashville (4,516 trials, ranked 29th) and Indianapolis (7,351 trials, ranked 27th)1,3,4. As seen below, the greater San Diego area being referred to extends southward to the Mexican border, and northward to cities such as Encinitas, Carlsbad, San Marcos, and Oceanside.

Distribution of Clinical Trials per Zip Code1

Distribution of Clinical Trials per Zip Code

Aside from the aforementioned, other cities with comparable trial volumes to San Diego’s include Pittsburgh (8,832 trials) and Portland (9,172 trials). On the other hand, there are also several cities with greater trial volumes than San Diego’s despite smaller populations, including Raleigh (see above), Columbus (11,053 trials), and St. Louis (12,651)1,4.

The main reason San Diego stands where it does in the realm of clinical trials is clear: UC San Diego Health. This academic health system astonishingly accounted for about 43.9% of all clinical trials in the San Diego area in 2018, almost six times as much as the next most active health system, Rady Children’s Hospital (7.7%). Following these two health systems are Kaiser Permanente (7.2%), Sharp HealthCare (5.8%), and Scripps Health (5.5%); together, they comprise the only five systems in San Diego to conduct at least 100 clinical trials in 20181.

Clinical Trials in San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos MSA (2018)1

10 Years of the Top 5 Clinical Trial Hospitals in San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos MSA (2018)1

UC San Diego Health boasted three of the four most active clinical trial locations in the area in 2018: its Jacobs Medical Center (with 383 active* trials), Moores Cancer Center (280 active trials) and Hillcrest Medical Center (154 active trials). Along with Rady Children’s Hospital, these four individual locations were the only ones to conduct more than 100 active studies last year. This speaks to some level of depth within the top health systems, as these four locations are parts of only two of the aforementioned five health systems. Other notable clinical trial locations in San Diego last year include Sharp Memorial Hospital, the VA San Diego Healthcare System, the Naval Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente Zion Medical Center, and Scripps Green Hospital. Of these, the UC San Diego Jacobs Medical Center and Moores Cancer Center have demonstrated the most growth; the former has gone from 137 active trials in 2008 to 383 in 2018, while the latter has gone from 128 to 280 over the same span. Also of note in this regard is Rady Children’s Hospital, going from 92 in 2008 to 160 in 2018. Interestingly, a unique trend is seen for UC San Diego Health’s Hillcrest Medical Center; it increased from 163 trials in 2008 to 203 in 2012, then decreased to 154 in 2018 from there1.

Alternative Clinical Centers in San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos MSA (2018)1

In regards to sites in San Diego that are independent specialty practices or research-dedicated, several have also grown significantly over the past decade. The most active of these sites in 2018 was the Artemis Institute for Clinical Research in San Diego, with 48, growing from three in 2008. Artemis’s other location in San Marcos has also grown from a single trial in 2015 to 21 last year. Beyond the Artemis Institute, other notable sites of this type include TriWest Research Associates in El Cajon (from two active trials in 2012 to 34 last year), Pacific Research Network (from five in 2010 to 33 last year), Medical Associates Research Group (five in 2008 to 31 last year), California Cancer Care Associates for Research and Excellence in Encinitas (three in 2008 to 23 in 2018), and Precision Research Institute in San Diego (a single trial in 2010 to 20 last year)1.

Current Active Clinical Trials in San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos MSA2

More recent analyses of the TrialJourney database provide a more up-to-date snapshot of the clinical trials landscape in San Diego. According to these analyses, there are currently an estimated 2,543 active trials in the San Diego area. Of these trials, approximately 1,384 (54.4%) are recruiting for participation. UC San Diego Health currently has 963 active clinical trials (546, or 56.7%, of which are recruiting), accounting for 37.9% and 39.5% of all of San Diego’s active and recruiting trials, respectively. 368 (38.2%) of UC San Diego’s current active trials are accounted for by the Jacobs Medical Center, 217 (64%) of which are recruiting, and these also account for 39.7% of UC San Diego Health’s recruiting trials. The Medical Center alone comprises 14.5% of the city’s active trials and 15.7% of its recruiting trials. The accompanying Moores Cancer Center currently has 340 active trials (179, or 52.6%, of which are recruiting), comprising 35.3% of UC San Diego Health’s active trials and 32.9% of its recruiting trials. As for San Diego as a whole, Moores accounts for 13.4% of the city’s active trials and 12.9% of its recruiting trials. Outside of UC San Diego Health, Kaiser Permanente is also making a mark on San Diego’s landscape, with 272 currently active studies (106, or 40%, recruiting); its totals account for 10.7% of the area’s active trials and 4.2% of its recruiting trials. Finally, Rady Children’s Hospital currently has 185 active trials (115, or 62.2%, of which are recruiting), contributing 7.3% and 8.3% of San Diego’s active and recruiting trials to its landscape2.**

Considering its DMA rank, San Diego is performing well in the clinical trial industry, largely on the back of UC San Diego Health. Although the clinical trials conducted in San Diego are predominantly concentrated among five health systems, there is a decent amount of depth within them; it is not the case where most of the trials are reserved to one location in these systems. This depth, along with a much more robust academic health system, is what separates San Diego from cities with similar trial volumes, namely Phoenix and Tampa1. Still, however, there are cities throughout the country performing comparatively better than San Diego.

*Active in 2018 = Active at any point in 2018 (Start date of study is before 12/31/2018 and end date is after 1/1/2018)

**As part of our ongoing quality assurance process, we've enhanced and improved our trial accounting algorithm in order to capture clinical trials with inconclusive and/or unstated completion dates.

  1. Approximate attributable data as per the TrialJourney database collapse as of 4/11/2019. All data is derived from
  2. Approximate attributable data as per the TrialJourney database collapse as of 7/22/2019. All data is derived from
  3. Lyons Public Relations Broadcast PR Solutions. (2017). 2017 Nielsen DMA rankings – Full list. Retrieved from
  4. U.S Census Bureau. (2018) New Census Bureau population estimates show Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington has the largest growth in the United States. Retrieved from
  5. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. (2019). Annual estimates of the resident population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2018 – United States – Combined statistical area; and for Puerto Rico. Retrieved from

Abbreviation Guide

  • UCSD - Jacobs Medical -- UC San Diego Health Jacobs Medical Center
  • UCSD - Moores Cancer -- UC San Diego Health Moores Cancer Center
  • UCSD Medical - Hillcrest -- UC San Diego Medical Center - Hillcrest
  • Artemis Institute - SD -- Artemis Institute for Clinical Research - San Diego
  • TriWest - El Cajon -- TriWest Research Associates - El Cajon
  • Pacific Research - SD -- Pacific Research Network - San Diego Main Site
  • Medical Associate -- Medical Associates Research Group
  • cCARE - Encinitas -- California Cancer Associates for Research and Excellence (cCARE) - Encinitas