Virtual Epidemiological Seminar

Challenges in emulating target trials​

Bianca De Stavola
Professor of Medical Statistics
University College London

Please join the meeting via this zoom link:


The framework of target trial emulation (TTE) is increasingly adopted when researchers wish to address causal questions using observational data. TTE has multiple advantages, starting from the clarity of explicitly specifying the hypothetical target experimental trial for the questions of interest. However, because the data often arise from linked administrative databases that are not created for research purposes, their handling demands extreme care if biased conclusions are to be avoided. Two main sources of bias have been broadly recognised in the epidemiological literature: immortal time bias and inappropriate selection of comparative groups. This talk will focus on other challenges to emulating target trials which are not commonly aired, using two examples.​

Bianca De Stavola is Professor of Medical Statistics at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, London, UK. She recently joined UCL after 23 years at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where she was co-Director of the Centre for Statistical Methodology. Bianca received her PhD from Imperial College London and MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences, after graduating in Statistical and Economic Sciences at Padua University. Her main research activities involve the understanding, development and implementation of statistical methods for long-term longitudinal studies, with specific applications to life-course epidemiology. As these often involve causal enquiries, in particular related to understanding pathways towards disease development, mediation analysis is a main focus of interest and collaborations.

Participation is open to everyone. The seminar is arranged by the Section of Epidemiology and the Graduate Program in Public Health and Epidemiology.