Verily, a health and life sciences company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, said on 21 May it is moving into the clinical trials space through a partnership with pharmaceuticals companies Novartis, Sanofi, Otsuka and Pfizer.
The goal of the partnership is to find new ways to reach patients, make it easier to enroll and participate in clinical trials, and to aggregate data from a range of sources, including electronic medical records and health-tracking wearable devices.
Using its existing Project Baseline platform, Verily said it hopes to “engage more patients and clinicians in research, increase the speed and ease of conducting studies and collect more comprehensive, higher quality data, including outside the four walls of a clinic”.
Clinical trials have traditionally been expensive processes that rely on outdated technologies so many pharmaceutical companies are looking at the potential of leveraging the latest technology developed by companies like Google to refine and streamline the process.
According to Verily, the number of people participating in clinical research across the United States is less than 10 percent of the population, and challenges in research other than low numbers can include “data fragmentation, inefficient operations and limited value for patients”.
Using the Baseline platform, Verily, alongside its new industry partners – and with input from academic research institutions, patient-advocacy groups and health systems – said it hopes to “implement a more patient-centric, technology-enabled approach to research, and increase the number and diversity of clinical research participants”, and to develop “novel approaches to generating real-world evidence”.
Over the coming years, Novartis, Otsuka, Pfizer and Sanofi each plan to launch clinical studies leveraging the platform across diverse therapeutic areas, such as cardiovascular disease, oncology, mental health, dermatology and diabetes, Verily said.
Project Baseline launched in 2017 with the Project Baseline Health Study, aiming to “develop the technology and tools to help researchers create a more comprehensive, precise map of human health”.
This includes “devices, dashboards and analytical tools” to support both the patient experience and research; an “interoperable platform” to provide timely access to data to “streamline enrollment and management” of studies; and a “robust infrastructure” that “enables collection of dynamic data”.
Project Baseline has also built a “connected ecosystem with the aim of linking patients
and advocacy groups with clinicians and health systems, integrating clinical research with
clinical practice and making the process engaging”.
Verily anticipates that the new partnership with strengthen Project Baseline’s existing “ecosystem that will continue to expand and could help foster greater scientific discovery through the creation of next-generation research and development programs”.
“If we are truly to achieve the realization of patient-centered care, we must advance innovative research methodologies that focus on the patient and their needs, values and lifestyles,” Dr Reed Tuckson, chairman of the Project Baseline Advisory Board, said in a statement. “Project Baseline, in collaboration with these innovative companies, is well positioned to achieve this vision and have a transformative impact on research.”
“Evidence generation through research is the backbone of improving health outcomes,” Dr Jessica Mega, chief medical and scientific officer at Verily, added. “We need to be inclusive and encourage diversity in research to truly understand health and disease, and to provide meaningful insights about new medicines, medical devices and digital health solutions.”
“Novartis, Otsuka, Pfizer and Sanofi have been early adopters of advanced technology and digital tools to improve clinical research operations, and together we’re taking another step towards making research accessible and generating evidence to inform better treatments and care,” she said.
Novartis’ head of global development operations, Badhri Srinivasan, said the company was “advancing treatments that stand to change the course of disease, or even offer cures” but noted that its “ability to bring new medicines to patients quickly is often hampered by inefficient or limited participation in clinical trials”.
“By combining our complementary sets of expertise, we have the opportunity to develop a new trial recruitment model that gives patients and their physicians greater insight into the process of finding treatments for their disease, and how they can participate,” he concluded.
Describing the clinical research process as “antiquated in many ways”, Dr Debbie Profit, vice president of applied innovation and process improvement at Otsuka, said she hoped the company’s collaboration with Verily would help make clinical trials more accessible, precise and targeted to “obtain results and seek approvals sooner”.
“In clinical research, for several years now we have been pursuing game-changing possibilities to deploy digital technology and data science to re-engineer how we operate,” Rod MacKenzie, chief development officer and executive vice president of Pfizer, said. “The science behind our potential new medicines is cutting edge, yet many clinical trial processes have remained relatively unchanged over decades.”
“To bring scientific breakthroughs to patients more quickly and increase the diversity of the patient population in our clinical trials, Pfizer is committed to exploring new technologies and innovative ways to conduct clinical research, and we are proud to partner with Verily in that effort,” he added.
“Our scientific knowledge has exploded over the past generation, but efficiently bringing these new breakthroughs from lab bench to patient requires us to greatly improve the way we conduct these complex clinical trials,” Lionel Bascles, global head of clinical sciences and operations at Sanofi, said. “Project Baseline will allow us to better recruit appropriate patients and more efficiently integrate data for a greater understanding of diseases, reconnecting trials to our patients’ healthcare journeys.”