Thread, a company providing decentralized clinical trial (DCT) solutions, and Trialbee (which offers a patient matching and enrollment platform) have announced a collaboration aimed at streamlining patient recruitment for study sponsors and contract research organizations. According to the collaborators, the initiative is designed to help sites and sponsors overcome barriers like geographic location, lack of trial awareness, delays, and more.
Outsourcing-Pharma talked about the DTC partnership between the two firms with Matt Walz, CEO of Trialbee.
OSP: How did Thread and Trialbee come to work together—have you been talking a while, or have you worked on any collaborative projects before this?
MW: We had never worked with Thread in the past, but once we saw that they had a similar mission to ours in expanding global clinical trial access to patients, we thought they would be a great partner. Our platforms enable study teams to capture data remotely from patients that are not able to come physically into testing sites.
The key to streamlining a DCT is by providing accessible virtual platforms that allow for a smooth, constant stream of communication and data collection between researchers and patients, and we saw that Thread would help achieve that.
OSP: Please share your perspective on how the DCT industry has evolved in recent years—both prior to COVID-19 and in the months since the pandemic arrived.
MW: Before the pandemic, DCTs were gaining gradual traction within clinical practices as a way of accommodating patients that could not make frequent visits to testing sites and to provide an accessible, alternative outlet for data collection. While DCTs were not completely uncommon, their adoption was moving at a fairly slow pace.
Once COVID-19 hit, there was an increase in the adoption of innovative tools to support remote data capture and remote participation in clinical trials. DCTs enable the barriers to access to be lowered, allowing more people to participate in clinical trials as a care option.
The industry was already moving toward a DCT model, but COVID accelerated it, and now that we have seen that this works as a model that eases the patients’ experience, captures accurate and real-time data, and speeds trials, we believe this model will only continue to gain traction.
OSP: Could you please share your thoughts on some of the challenges DCT teams face with patient ID, enrollment, and engagement?
MW: One of the biggest challenges DCT teams face is addressing diversity. Patients recruited for a trial often are not representative of the population, which leads to inaccuracies in studies and solutions that may not work for every patient.
DCT teams struggle with reaching certain populations, which may be due to lack of trust from patients or lack of effort to select the right patients. Another major challenge in clinical trials is that traditional strategies can cause delays which increase costs and timelines for medicines to reach the market.
OSP: Why is trial inclusivity important in trials (DCT or otherwise) and worth improving?
MW: It’s well documented that racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in clinical trials around the world. Studies show that people from specific demographics respond to treatments differently. Age, genetics, gender, weight, ethnic origin, even geographic location, all may play a role in how treatment may work or how safe it may be. The safety and efficacy of drugs and medical products across all groups that could benefit from the drug or product can only be evaluated when patient cohorts are representative of and reflect the diversity of actual patient populations.
OSP: Could you please share a little detail about what each company brings to the table, and how your capabilities complement each other?
MW: Trialbee focuses on identifying and targeting the right patient for the right trial, with a multi-step qualification process to ensure the patient is a clinical match. This is complemented by Thread’s ability to provide high-quality data capture throughout the patient’s clinical trial journey.
Trialbee combines recruitment and retention with a global digital solution and data-driven patient matching, which works well with Thread's DCT platform that caters to the needs of patients by maximizing engagement throughout a clinical trial. Combined, they provide a comprehensive solution for patient engagement in DCTs.
Most importantly, these solutions together strengthen the shared goal of simplicity for the trial and the patient.