'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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Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

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