Digital Pharma: Searching for clinical trials

pharmafile | February 23, 2010 | Feature | Research and Development CRO, TrialReach, digi, digital pharma, digital pharma research, digital research, patient recruitment 

A new clinical trials search and referral engine has launched to help patients who are considering taking part in a trial to find information.

London-based TrialReach, which went live last week, has details of more than 70,000 clinical trials and intends to include every trial authorised and regulated by health authorities anywhere in the world.

The site’s Google-like design certainly signposts the scale of its ambitions, and there does seem to be a need for more patient-friendly trial information.

To provide this TrialReach is combining information from the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) and with some content specially created from materials provided by trial sponsors.

The founding team behind the venture includes chief medical officer Dr Jessica Mann, a 15-year veteran of the pharmaceutical industry.

Her career to date has taken in stints at Novartis as international clinical leader for Diovan, Roche where she worked in clinical research and licensing liaison, and as medical director for Speedal.

She said: “The benefits that this set of tools and communications represent both to patients and to the industry can be, quite literally, life-changing.

“I have experienced the patient recruitment problem first-hand for many years, and for the first time I believe there can be a real, lasting solution that is at the same time efficient and extremely cost-effective.”

TrialReach’s business model hinges on attracting revenue from companies who advertise their products and services on the website, and from pharmaceutical companies for putting them in touch with people who wish to participate in their studies.

But the company is clear that patients have to explicitly request to be referred and trials will be included whether or not it is working with the trial sponsor.

TrialReach’s trial information is edited and augmented with multimedia content such as pictures, videos and maps, “until we get something that is clear, accurate and objective” the company said.

The site also has a facility for patients to send questions about a study to healthcare professionals – in most cases the actual investigators for the study.

Set up in 2009, TrialReach’s founding team also includes chief executive Pablo Graiver and chief operating officer Dr Eithan Ephrati.

Positioning itself as a ‘poster-child of Health 2.0’, the company aims to use the latest technologies and marketing tools to bridge the gap between patients wanting to take part in clinical trials and sponsors and investigators seeking to recruit participants.

Graiver said: “The published information about clinical trials is not accessible enough; it’s just too technical for the vast majority of patients. No matter how accurately you are matched to a study, you still ask yourself: Is this right for me?

“We understood that from the beginning and developed a truly innovative solution to bridge that gap, ensuring an elegant and efficient user experience.”

Graiver was an early member of NetJuice, one of the largest Internet incubators in Europe; managing director at Spanish e-commerce directory and later co-founded price comparison site Kelkoo.

Dr Ephrati has 25 years of experience as entrepreneur, manager, investor and mentor of technology companies and is the author of over 30 scientific publications on artificial intelligence, multi-agent systems and game theory.

As would be expected, TrialReach’s promotional efforts encompass social media websites with presences on Twitter and Facebook.

Phamra has been making trial information more available over the last six years, but this has been as much for reasons of transparency as for patient recruitment.

Clinical trial registry sites are run by a number of companies, among them GlaxoSmithKline, Lilly, Roche and Lundbeck, but these only detail their own trials – considerably slowing down any patient wanting to search for trials in a particular therapy area.

A more general approach was taken by contract research organisation Quintiles, which last year launched its own trial search site to detail trial information irrespective of the sponsor or CRO involved.

Dominic Tyer is web editor for Pharmafocus and and the author of the Digital Pharma blog He can be contacted via email, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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