A new public health tool dubbed World Without COVID launched this morning with the goal of connecting patients to coronavirus clinical trials across the country. The new product, which is powered by digital clinical trial company Clara Health, is aimed at helping propel clinical research and treatment surrounding the virus.
In part, the product was inspired by product cofounder and Lyft Chief Strategy Officer Raj Kapoor’s own experience with coronavirus. He was traveling in Aspen when he started to feeling off. He was able to get a test at a drive-through and find out after nine days that he was COVID-19 positive.
His case was mild, but after recovering from the virus he wanted to help. He started to have chats with people in Silicon Valley regarding the best way to get involved.
“In many conversations with folks from UCSF, Stanford and other leading research institutions, I found myself asking the same question over and over again: What's the biggest problem researchers have when it comes to developing tests, treatments, and vaccines? The answer was always the same: Finding eligible candidates for clinical trials quickly,” he said.
This prompted him to start thinking of ways to get patients to the right trials quickly.
“In fact, 86% of trials fall behind schedule because of difficulty recruiting participants. I knew we couldn’t afford to let those delays occur with this crisis and wanted to build something that was more comprehensive and frictionless,” he said. “A friend in [venture capital] introduced me to Evan Ehrenberg and Sol Chen, cofounders of Clara Health, who had already built the essential infrastructure to connect millions of individuals with clinical studies across the world.”
The trio developed the new platform, now available to the public. On the new platform, patients can sign up and enter information about whether they are fully healthy, recovered from coronavirus or currently have the virus. Next, the tool walks volunteers through a questionnaire. Patients are then presented with clinical trials that best match them based on condition, trial location, phase of the study and other factors.
“For COVID-19, we are going further and manually adding additional categorization tags to every clinical trial on our platform to provide an even more detailed matching experience,” Ehrenberg said. “In order to expedite the time it takes to connect with a trial site, we’ve also partnered with sponsors to streamline the process for participants. Applying to clinical trials through World Without COVID delivers a secure, direct-application workflow that enables researchers to work more quickly, and volunteers to get involved faster and easier.”
WHY IT MATTERS
Globally there are 1,844,863 cases of coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization. Today the United States has the highest number of confirmed cases. Innovators, scientists and clinicians are looking for ways to treat and prevent the virus. The FDA has issued Emergency Use Authorizations for various medical devices, personal protective equipment and two types of controversial antimalarial drugs.
However, research on the virus continues to plow ahead, as does the need for new research participants.
“Even with various EUAs in place we’re seeing an explosion of COVID-19 research, with some days that have over 20 COVID-19-related trials listed in a 24-hour period. This is completely unprecedented, and driving a drastic increase in demand for participants – especially outpatients who are not in the hospital system and hard to reach. Even hospitals don't have time or resources to register inpatients for trials, given the more pressing care needs they have from COVID-19 conditions. Many of these trials are multi-city and multi-region, so we need a solution that transcends borders.”
THE LARGER TREND
Increasingly pharma companies have been turning to digital tools to recruit and connect to potential clinical trial patients.
Just last month, clinical trial management tool ClinOne scored $3.6 million in Series A funding for its platform, which works with pharma companies, research groups and clinical trial sites in order to recruit appropriate patients for their trial.