‘Site-less’ trials in mind, Novartis launches an app for ophthalmology research

In the latest company move to embrace all things digital, Novartis has launched an app that it hopes will boost participation in its ophthalmology trials.

The pharma giant is calling the tech FocalView, and it’ll be used by researchers to track disease progression in patients with ophthalmic disease real-time. Patients will self-report data through the app that will guide clinical research, starting by taking assessments like visual acuity and contrast sensitivity tests.

Right now, data collected for these trials mostly comes from clinics, and its first gathered by physicians through interactions with patients. By bringing the clinic into people’s homes via the app, Novartis is banking on the idea that making trial participation easy will boost its data stash

“Optimizing digital technology in research and development, particularly in ophthalmic disease, could have a marked impact on the quality of the data we capture,” said Bertrand Bodson, Novartis Chief Digital Officer in a statement.

A Novartis spokesperson tells me the app is being tested in a prospective, non-interventional study to check on its efficacy.

“Researchers will assess ease of use, level of enrollments and the ability to obtain important documentation for future clinical trial research. In the next phase, the app will be validated against traditional visual testing that takes place within conventional clinical settings.”

FocalView, which was built on Apple’s software ResearchKit, is live on the App Store in the U.S. Novartis is planning to launch in additional markets in the future, according to a company statement.

This new app is the latest in Novartis’ push to modernize the pharma giant by embracing tech where ever it can, the company said. The spokesperson went as far as to say Novartis imagines itself a “medicines and data science company” now.

“Digital technologies and data science have incredible potential to unlock the next chapter of medical innovation and at Novartis we think that going big on data and digital are key to Novartis’ future. Novartis is uniquely positioned to lead the digital revolution in pharma by integrating technologies into every aspect of Novartis’ approach across R&D, reimagining Novartis as a ‘medicines and data science’ company.”

The latest example of the effort is the company’s new partnership with Pear Therapeutics, one of the pioneers in digital medicine, to develop new mobile apps for patients with schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. Novartis also recently announced an expanded partnership with Science 37 to launch up to 10 collaborative research studies over the next three years that blend virtual and traditional models. The idea is to embrace more “site-less” trials in the future.

The company says its also gone live with a data science program it calls Nerve, which uses predictive analytics to design, monitor, and cull insights from the company’s hundreds of clinical trials around the world. That program is already delivering a 10-15% reduction in patient enrollment times in pilot trials, a Novartis spokesperson said.

Image: Shutterstock

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Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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