This article was originally published on October 7, 2016 as a part of the Partnerships in Clinical Trials Blog.
One of the highlights of my participation at the Partnerships in Clinical Trials (PCT) conference, held as part of Biotech Week Boston (BWB), was listening to Steve Wozniak Co-Founder/Chief Scientist at Apple Computer, speak on his experiences in the technology industry. Wozniak’s presence at BWB and PCT reasserted some of the overarching themes that maintained a consistent presence throughout the duration of the conference. His talk served as a reminder of the power of innovation to produce real solutions and influence people’s lives. Innovation and forward thinking in the clinical research industry can lead to life-changing therapies, and possibly improve the drug development process overall.
During his interview, Wozniak touched on the need for companies to remain open to change. He noted, “When something simpler comes along, we often don’t see it.” Wozniak applied this to the unfortunate tendency for corporate culture to adopt an attitude of stagnation, holding to age-old values rather than adjusting to meet the needs of modern society. In clinical research, this is all too familiar. While the research industry is full of brilliant minds and innovative ideas, the clinical trial process and its associated bodies are notoriously slow to adopt change. This slow adoption may be attributed to strained relationships between stakeholders, including sponsors, sites and patients.
During day three of PCT, representatives from the Avoca Group raised a compelling question: is it possible to alleviate industry silos and build successful strategic partnerships in the clinical research industry? The representatives presented recent survey results regarding the purpose and effectiveness of strategic alignments in the industry, revealing an increase in the amount of strategic partnerships in clinical research and a marked increase in organizational satisfaction.
The group then turned to a panel of industry experts to discuss methods for improving these strategic partnerships and allowing for faster adoption of innovative practices. Shree Kalluri, Founder and CEO of Forte, asserted that these silos can be broken by establishing a “new breed of technology” to integrate all stakeholders in the industry. He believes this integration will allow for real-time visibility into clinical trial progress and data for all stakeholders, creating greater efficiencies in clinical trial processes.
Integrating technology in this way could both align the clinical research industry and also lead to more positive experiences for clinical trial participants. To meet the expectations of the consumer, Wozniak said product design should remain simple. This is a mindset that helped Apple become a frontrunner in the technology industry. “People want things easy” Wozniak stated. He discussed how Steve Jobs worked to produce technology that integrated into the customer’s daily life as seamlessly as possible. The clinical research industry should adopt a similar mindset and focus efforts toward making clinical trial design more participant-centric.
At PCT, Tina Rees’ presentation on human factors research discussed this concept of making research as easy as possible for the participant. Rees talked about her work at Eli Lilly as a Senior Research Scientist in Human Factors, highlighting the importance of human factors research in the drug and device approval process. This type of research analyzes how users interact with drugs and devices and finds ways to improve products for greater ease-of-use. While human factors studies differ from clinical trials, patient centricity should be a focus for both forms of research. Like human factors studies, clinical trials should be designed with the participant in mind. Adopting methods to make study participation simple, rather than asking participants to change normal behaviors, can increase study compliance, improve patient recruitment and enhance the overall study experience.
Overall, Wozniak’s interview emphasized the potential for the clinical research industry to achieve life-changing innovations. His presence at Biotech Week Boston and Partnerships in Clinical Trials reminded his audience that innovation and great ideas are not ignited through stringent structure, but sparked from genuine curiosity, passion and open-mindedness.
To learn more about Forte’s collaborative efforts to create efficiencies in clinical research, register for our free, upcoming webinar “Best Practices for Participant-Centric Payments in Clinical Trials.“