Novartis joint venture helps virtual trial CRO to $6.5m fundraising round

By Staff Reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Novartis JV helps virtual trial CRO to $6.5m fundraising round

Related tags: Clinical trials, Clinical trial, Clinicaltrials.gov

Science 37 has raised $6.5m (€5.7m) from Lux Capital and dRx Capital, the fund set up by Novartis and Qualcomm, to advance its virtual clinical trial service business.

The idea behind Science 37 is to take telemedicine tools that have started to reshape how people interact with the healthcare system and apply them to clinical trials. Instead of having to visit trial sites to join and stay in a study, patients can participate through a mix of technology and home visits.

Pfizer brought the concept of virtual trials to the fore in 2011​ when it set up the REMOTE study. Yet, while technologies championed by the study have gone on to break into mainstream research programmes, the idea of conducting clinical trials without sites is yet to fully take off.

Science 37 intends to use its $6.5m to start changing that. “We are using this investment to accelerate the development of our new metasite operating model and to expand our overall capacity to support our growing pipeline of sponsor interest​,” Catherine Geanuracos, chief marketing officer at Science 37, told Outsourcing-Pharma.

“Metasite”​ is how Science 37 describes the geographically-distributed, technologically-connected networks of patients and researchers that characterize clinical trials run using its operating model.

The model entails the coordination of mobile nursing companies, pharmacy chains, patient advocacy groups and tech firms by Science 37. In this way, Science 37 is trying to tap into existing capacity, with the value it provides to clients coming from its coordination of the resources.

Spending money

Such coordination is enabled, in part, by technology, the development of which will consume some of the $6.5m. Specifically, Science 37 will be “developing additional core functionality and systems integration for our technology platform​,” Geanuracos said.

The platform, dubbed NORA, an acronym of Network Oriented Research Assistant, is the glue that holds together Science 37’s trials. At the front end is NORA-Mobile, the app through which patients interact with researchers. Behind all of this is a structured repository of trial data.   

Ultimately, the idea of freeing patients from the need to visit clinical trial sites could be applied to many therapeutic areas and significantly expand the pool of potential participants in research. For now though, Science 37 has a targeted plan for how it will allocate its resources.

We'll focus particular efforts in areas where the patient need is the greatest, and our potential impact is highest, for example, precision medicine oncology and rare disease​,” Geanuracos said.

To advance it toward these near-term objectives, Science 37 plans to use its recent investment to expand its executive team and grow headcount at its clinical trial operation. 

News of the Series A investment round comes one month after a panel made up of executives at Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Pfizer and other leading pharma companies named Science 37 as the Disruptive Innovator of the Year at the DPharm: Disruptive Innovations to Advance Clinical Trials U.S. conference.

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