23andMe, a frontrunner in the consumer genomics space, is turning its attention to clinical trial recruitment. The company has inked a deal with TrialSpark, a health tech platform that lets providers become clinical trial sites, connecting their customers to the latter’s trial network.
The new deal will use 23andMe’s crowdsourced research platform, which lets its customers opt into research and supply their non-genetic information. The consumer genomics company is then able to identify and contact patients likely to be appropriate for specific clinical trials.
"23andMe's unique model solves for the biggest challenge in clinical trials — patient recruitment," Emily Drabant Conley, VP of business development at 23andMe, said in a statement. "It's game changing, because it is built around engaged customers who consent to participate in research, and it allows 23andMe to quickly find the right patients with the right conditions for clinical trials. Now with TrialSpark we are taking this one step further by enabling our customers access to clinical trial sites within their community.”
As part of today’s news the companies are putting out a request for clinical trial proposals in the areas of dermatology, gastroenterology, pulmonology, endocrinology, ophthalmology, inflammatory diseases, neurology, women’s health and rare diseases.
WHY IT MATTERS
Clinical trials can be both costly and time consuming. One of the initial problems is matching the right participants to the right study. A Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development article found that two-thirds of clinical trial sites don’t meet the enrollment requirement for individual trials. However, the pharma world has been increasingly turning to digital health companies to help fill in the gaps.
“With the convergences of life sciences and digital health, we are already seeing outstanding opportunities to transform patient care and drug discoveries,” Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, COO at MassBio, told MobiHealthNews during a July interview. “We knew that integrating digital into the life sciences was happening, and we knew that there were other industries that were doing it [and] doing it better. So, if we wanted to stay on top, we needed to take a strategic look at what needs to be done.”
THE LARGER TREND
This is hardly 23andMe’s first rendevou in the research and pharma space. In April the company teamed up with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research on a new data and analytics platform dedicated to Parkinson’s research. The new tool, dubbed Fox Insight Data Exploration Network (Fox DEN) will include patient surveys, de-identified genetic data and data exploration tools all aimed studying Parkinson’s.
Perhaps the most notable deal 23andMe has had in the pharma space was a $300 million investment from GlaxoSmithKline to gain exclusive access to the genetic testing startup’s DNA database.
ON THE RECORD
"TrialSpark has already made significant efforts toward expanding access to clinical trials by creating sites where patients live and with doctors they already see. With 23andMe we can empower even more patients to access clinical trials at their local doctor's office," Benjamine Liu, CEO and cofounder of TrialSpark, said in a statement. "This collaboration with 23andMe is a major step toward redefining modern clinical trials and accelerating the pace of medical discoveries. By using technology and a patient-first approach, we can run clinical trials with faster timelines and with operational consistency, ultimately bringing therapies to patients faster."