The first DPharm event was launched in September 2011 with 125 disruptive thinkers and change makers eager to discuss current solutions in clinical development, propose innovative changes, and commit to testing and sharing the results in order to transform drug development and the industry. Now in its 13th year, it is growing while retaining a level of intimacy making it an accessible and sociable event.
Hine believes the expression 'rising tide lifts all boats' is applicable to the life sciences industry. In an interview after the event, he explains why he loves his job and what he hopes for the future.
OSP: Can you tell me what you thought of the conference?
It was my favorite conference I've ever attended. I was running around constantly. I met a lot of new people who were awesome and passionate about driving change in the industry.
OSP: What about your journey into the life sciences?
Like many of the people who work in this industry, I stumbled into it. I was working as an engineer for the Navy and started to think about moving from where we were in Southern Maryland back to where my wife and I grew up in the Philadelphia area. I wanted to switch industries. I loved being more people-facing and doing less engineering where you're stuck staring at a computer all day.
Someone I know said there was a role at Greenphire as a sales engineer, but I didn’t have a clue what that was, and he explained it was a subject matter expert who understands technology. It was also client-facing and I would be able to give demonstrations and I knew I would love that. I asked about the industry, and he said it was about clinical trials I was completely ignorant of all things sales and clinical trials, but it ended up being a perfect fit, and I joined Greenphire in the summer of 2018.
I essentially fell in love with the industry, fell in love with our products, our solutions, and our mission.
OSP: Could you tell me a little more about your time at DPharm and what you hoped to accomplish?
We were in a track called The Future of Clinical Trials and I was asked if I would be willing to present.
I was sitting there thinking about the future of clinical trials, and I've attended enough of these conferences to know that enrollment, retention, and diversity are common topics. They are always discussed and I'm tired of it. I thought 'well, the future of clinical trials is one as we're not talking about them anymore'. It's a future where we have achieved our goals in those three areas so that they don't have to be talked about at every single conference that I go to.
I wanted to put together a presentation that opened the attendees’ eyes to ways in which they can achieve those goals starting today. And that was the hope, to make an engaging presentation, make it memorable, and make it something actionable so they can walk out of there to start making a difference in their enrollment retention and diversity goals.
OSP: And was it a successful delivery and what were the key takeaways?
I would say it was a successful delivery, it was well attended. I had a lot of compliments afterward and people were interested in the presentation.
At one point I asked the audience to stand up, and I got them involved and then I split them up throughout the room based on what type of cellphone they had. So, iPhone users were on one side and Android users were on another and then I had them share who their carrier is - Verizon, Vodafone, T Mobile, etc. And the point I was trying to make was showing how different each of their individual preferences is for their cell phones. And now imagine in a clinical trial, the different preferences of all your patients all around the world, from all different socio-economic backgrounds. How can we meet those individual needs across a wide breadth of options?
So, there are payment options. How do you want to be paid? There are travel options. How do you want to get back and forth to the site? There are engagement options. Do you want to download an app? Do you prefer a piece of paper? Do you want to go online? And so, there's this breadth of items. These are critical to patients.
And then inside of each of them, you must have a level of depth. Otherwise, if you only provide one option in each of those, you're only reaching a very, very narrow group of participants. By adding options this way, and depth the other way, you now can reach a much broader set of patients to enroll them, engage and retain them, and ultimately help you achieve your diversity goals as well.
OSP: A great idea to keep the audience involved did you demonstrate how you were hoping to implement things?
Yeah, that's what we were trying to show. So, the first half was all about flexibility and how flexibility matters. I then posed the question, 'well, how do you get that done?' The answer is through technology. If you design a technology that incorporates all the different options and flexibilities that then makes it easy for sites and patients all around the world to get specifically what they need, then that allows you to scale that sort of solution. So, the idea or the goal was, how can we find a patient in Europe or Latin America or Africa or Asia and figure out exactly what they need? Well, we don't need to have a one-on-one conversation. What we need is a wide breadth and depth of options that we know are applicable to most patients all around the world. And technology allows you to scale that impact and deliver a meaningful solution to every patient. Regardless of their individual preference, we have options for them to pick across a wide variety of things.
OSP: So is this you being proactive or reactive because there’s a constant stream of regulations on a loop coming out all the time for different areas of the industry? Isn’t this a reaction to diversity and patient-centricity guidelines – the aspects that are coming from regulatory bodies?
That is an outstanding question. And one that I think any designer constantly wrestles with. Back in 2015 or so, when I was working as an engineer, I was on a software design team. And I was helping design feature enhancements, fixing bugs, things of that nature. And I remember talking to the lead developer saying that we must fix these 10 things because if we don't fix them, the users aren't going to use the product and he was saying, we need to innovate, and we need to be proactive and do things new and differently. He used Steve Jobs and the iPhone as an example. He says, ‘Do you think that Steve Jobs went out there to design the next Blackberry? No, he went out there to change the way people use their cell phones'. And as true as that was, I reiterated that Steve Jobs still made it easy to call and text and check email. And he did it with a cool user interface.
It's the blend of meeting people where they are at designing something that's familiar enough that they're going to want to use it while being proactive, making it easy to think differently and to do things differently. Also, do it in a way that once again, maximizes that adoption and maximizes the impact.
OSP: How close has anyone got to your vision?
I think all of us in this industry who are reaching towards patient engagement and patient-centric solutions, are trying to do similar things. The difference, I think, that Greenphire has an advantage on - and I work here so I know it better than I know the other solutions - is the breadth and depth. There may be a solution out there that has an extra service on the end, but do they have the depth across all the other ones that we offer?
Maybe there's a provider out there that's really niche and does one thing really, well but we're all trying to achieve the same thing, and, in my opinion, a rising tide lifts all boats. So, as we are all chasing, improved patient centricity, and improved patient engagement, we're all going to come out winners. We play nice, we interoperate with each other, and we build solutions that make an impact on the world.
OSP: What are your overall thoughts on DPharm?
As I mentioned earlier, it was one of my favorite conferences. I'd say half of my conversations were partnership-related. Talking to lots of people and asking how they are doing. Dave Hadden founder of Pro-ficiency does site training analytics among other things. We bumped into one another at the same talk track by sitting at the same table. He gives his presentation and 20 minutes later, I give mine and we connect. I said 'I loved your presentation' and he said he loved mine. We're now emailing back and forth to see how we can collaborate. We’re discussing how we can work with other vendors in the industry to deliver the same outcome. We're all trying to speed up clinical trials to increase diversity and to deliver medicines faster the for the world.