Thread Research, a company offering various technology and services designed to enable decentralized clinical research, has received a capital commitment of up to $50m from strategic healthcare investors, Water Street Healthcare Partners and JLL Partners. Outsourcing-Pharma (OSP) discussed the funding with Thread president John Reites (JR), and the dramatic changes the decentralized trial field has seen in recent months.
OSP: Please tell us about Thread Research, including the history of the company, its key products/capabilities, and what sets you apart from the competition.
JR: Thread is a leading provider of a proprietary, decentralized research platform and suite of supporting services used by biopharma, CROs and life science organizations to remotely capture data from participants and sites during, in-between and in lieu of in-clinic visits. We are helping customers reduce study timelines and budgets with virtual visits and bring studies from the clinic to patients' homes.
Thread provides key platform features such as eConsent, eCOA/ePRO, sensors, reminders and telehealth Virtual Visits to support remote data capture, hybrid virtual studies and fully decentralized studies in key therapeutic areas.
Since supporting our first decentralized study in 2015, we have continued to enhance our platform and services, and we have supported more than 100 studies with availability in over 40 countries. Our expertise resulting from the sheer volume and global footprint of our studies and the credibility we’ve established in the industry is what really sets us apart.
Our proprietary technology and services enable us to configure studies rapidly at large scale with high quality and validation; provide an uncommon depth of features and functionality built from experience with our customers, sites and patients; and support measured approaches to conducting flexible, hybrid, decentralized studies in a variety of study designs and therapeutic areas.
OSP: Could you please tell me how clinical research, specifically decentralized trials, have changed/evolved in recent months?
JR: The industry has certainly faced some unique challenges in 2020. While decentralized trials were gaining traction long before the pandemic, COVID-19 brought them to the forefront of the clinical research industry.
There has been a pivotal shift in demand and how studies are conducted. CROs and sponsors are no longer asking why they should conduct decentralized trials, but how to do it; this industrywide move towards virtual and flexible research was inevitable, but the pandemic’s heavy hand forced many organizations to adapt quickly and adopt innovative solutions.
In working globally with customers, sites, patients, home health organizations and study teams, we have seen three key evolutions:
- Patients and sites have been working virtually for the majority of this year – learning new habits, adjusting to video/remote based activities and upgrading their BYOD technologies (i.e. webcams, tablets, etc.).
- Sponsors and CROs have realized the value of decentralized trials, suggesting a permanent paradigm shift.
- Regulators across the globe have become more flexible, engaged and externally supportive of features like eConsent, BYOD use, telehealth virtual visits and sensors to capture data from patients remotely.
OSP Could you please share a little more detail about what your plans are for use of the $50m investment?
JR: This additional investment from Water Street and JLL Partners is being used to further accelerate our growth with new platform/service offerings and global expansion.
OSP: Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t touch upon?
JR: There is a perception by some in our industry that decentralized studies are conducted in one way that is “site-less” and not flexible. However, at Thread, we support a large number of Phase II, III and IV studies and registries in which the decentralized approach fully supports the research site.
The solution simplifies the experience for patients while allowing them to do in-person, home health and virtual visits, depending on the specific needs and protocols of a given study. This tech-enabled flexibility is enhanced with automated features that optimize participant engagement and, therefore, improve data collection.
Decentralized studies are not just a means to modernize and “go virtual” – they offer an opportunity to improve the integrity of clinical research and bring lifesaving drugs to market more quickly and efficiently.