Like many experienced leaders in the life sciences, Pierre Pellier has traveled down an interesting career path. Now CEO of Clinical Trials Mobile Application (CTMA), he originally studied and trained to be a physician, working across a number of therapeutic areas with a specialty in gastroenterology; a number of major pharmaceutical companies—GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Takeda among them—turned to him for direction in clinical development and medical affairs.
After decades in the industry, he joined CTMA, a company working on technology designed to improve and elevate patient screening solutions. He spoke with Outsourcing-Pharma about his interesting career, and how CTMA hopes to improve screening and recruitment for sites and sponsors.
OSP: Your career has taken you down an interesting path—gastroenterology, research, government, pharma, etc. Could you please share a little of what you learned along the way, and how those positions led to (and prepared you for) life at CTMA?
PP: First of all, I’ve learned to concentrate on and prioritize being a “good human” first: This can be by not sacrificing one’s family and loved ones to one’s career, or by always keeping the patients’ interest at the center of everything I did.
OSP: Could you please share some of your most notable, proudest accomplishments pre-CTMA?
PP: I think pre-CTMA, my proudest accomplishments were having contributed and led teams that developed and registered innovative therapies that benefited many, many patients.
OSP: When you left pharma, the head of CTMA reached out and said, “Looks like you’re too young to put your brain to rest.” Please tell us a little more about how that conversation went, and why you opted to join CTMA instead of an early yet well-deserved retirement.
PP: Well, it all started with a conversation around one fact: It is difficult, if not to say almost impossible, to keep clinical trials, whether run by industry or academics, running on time. Having worked on developing new drugs for close to 30 years, I have been facing this reality daily. So, the promise of being able to work on a solution that can contribute to mitigating this issue is obviously quite tempting.
OSP: Could you please talk about how trials involving GI issues (IBD, Crohn’s, etc) are different than studies involving other conditions?
PP: It’s difficult to speak generically about studies. In general, studies tend to be different from each other, irrespective of the disease area. Obviously, GI studies will involve investigations that are specific to the specialty, such as endoscopies.
OSP: Specifically, how might the ways such conditions impact a patient’s quality of life affect their ability to enroll and participate in trials?
PP: Participating in a clinical trial can be demanding for patients: Besides the investigations mandated by the studies, clinical trials usually come with a relatively tight schedule of visits which traditionally patients had to attend in the clinic. These can represent a real burden on the patient or their caregivers.
But the advent of COVID has changed how trials are being designed and run: Asking patients to attend clinic visits is not a very wise thing to do anymore, so decentralized visits are increasingly being introduced.
OSP: Please share your thoughts on the issues most researchers face regarding patient identification and detection, and how study teams typically attempt to deal with those problems—where do they tend to fall short?
PP: Study teams will intervene from the protocol writing stage. Many features of a protocol (eg study design, nature of comparator, inclusion-exclusion criteria, frequency of visits, invasiveness of investigation needed, etc…) can greatly influence recruitment in a study.
Then, study teams will naturally concentrate on selecting the right sites and investigators: This would be the feasibility stage.
Finally, teams will investigate how they can make their study visible to patients who increasingly want to take an active role in clinical research. Our current app will enable all HCPs to rapidly match patients with studies running at their investigational site, without necessarily knowing the details of the basket of studies at the site.
Another important element to be able to facilitate effective patient detection is timing: There is a limited time window of opportunity to interest a patient in joining a clinical trial: Our app is also addressing this.
OSP: Please tell our readers about the innovative CT-Scout technology, and how it connects patients, caregivers, and research teams.
PP: CT-Scout is an application developed by investigators for investigators. The CT-Scout technology will enable any healthcare professional at the investigational site to readily match a patient characteristic with one or several of the studies running there. This means the ability to detect patients is not restricted to the few HCPs at sites who may be aware of all the studies running there, but that all HCPs seeing patients at sites can contribute to the detection.
OSP: You told me earlier, “I believe clinical trials are part of the care continuum.” Could you please elaborate on why you believe that and how CTMA’s technology supports that?
PP: For patients with chronic or incurable ailments, new innovative investigational agents represent a real therapeutic option: Imagine a patient whose disease is not completely in remission by the current state of the art therapeutic intervention, or another one in whom the treatment used successfully for a few years suddenly ceases to be effective. For both of these patients, participating in a clinical trial and trying a new innovative investigational agent may represent a solution to their quest for an agent to control their ailment.