Four pharma giants—Novartis, Otsuka Pharmaceutical, Pfizer, and Sanofi—will use the Project Baseline tech platform and tools of Google parent Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences in a collaboration designed to improve clinical research and trials, the partners said today.

The partnership, whose value was not disclosed, is aimed at engaging more patients and clinicians in clinical research; increasing the speed and ease of conducting studies; and collecting more comprehensive, higher quality data, including outside traditional clinical sites, according to Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences and healthcare subsidiary.

“Our ability to bring new medicines to patients quickly is often hampered by inefficient or limited participation in clinical trials,” Badhri Srinivasan, head, global development operations, Novartis, said in a statement. “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.”

Verily said it and the pharma giants plan to join with academic research institutions, patient-advocacy groups, and health systems to increase the number and diversity of clinical research participants by implementing a more patient-centric, technology-enabled approach to research.

The partners said they will also use Verily’s Baseline platform to explore novel approaches to generating real-world evidence by collecting, organizing, and activating health information from electronic health records, sensors, and other digital sources.

Novartis, Otsuka, Pfizer, and Sanofi each plan to launch clinical studies applying the Baseline platform in clinical studies across therapeutic areas that include cardiovascular disease, oncology, mental health, dermatology, and diabetes.

“Evidence generation through research is the backbone of improving health outcomes. 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,” said Jessica Mega, MD, chief medical and scientific officer, Verily.

Added Rod MacKenzie, chief development officer and executive vice president, Pfizer: “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.”

2017 health study

Verily launched Project Baseline in 2017 through the Project Baseline Health Study, partnering with Duke University School of Medicine, Stanford Medicine, Google, and the American Heart Association to develop technology and tools designed to map human health.

Since then, Verily’s engineers, clinicians, scientists, and partners have since developed and continue to expand Project Baseline by developing:

  • User-friendly devices, dashboards, and analytical tools designed to create an engaging experience for patients and provide research decision support to study coordinators and researchers;
  • An interoperable platform intended to provide access to timely, normalized data in order to streamline enrollment and management of studies; and
  • Infrastructure robust enough to enable the collection of data from electronic health records, and biometric or self-reported information.

Since the landmark study, Verily launched the Project Baseline Advisory Board of luminaries spanning healthcare, technology, medicine, and patient advocacy. Earlier this year, Verily and the American Heart Association (AHA) announced a program applying the Baseline platform to engage more women in research, called Research Goes Red, and an ongoing collaboration to connect patient communities with relevant research opportunities.

Earlier this month, Verily launched the Baseline Health System Consortium with Vanguard Health Systems in the United States to explore the use of new tools and technology to improve research broadly and help bridge the gap between clinical research and clinical care.

Verily cited a statistic cited in several studies that less than 10% of Americans participate in clinical research, including trials and observational studies.

According to a Research!America survey of U.S. adults conducted with Zogby Analytics in July 2017, the top reason of 11 listed for lack of participation in trials is lack of information about the studies themselves (55% of respondents), followed by the perception the trials are too risky (43%), a lack of information about the process of clinical trials (41%), and a lack of trust (38%).

Other challenges to be addressed through the collaboration include data fragmentation, inefficient operations, and limited value for patients, Verily added.

“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,” Mega added.

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