Analyst: Use of tech to streamline clinical trials 'still early in its adoption cycle'

In recent years, technology has gone from being a novelty in clinical trials to the cornerstone of the research process. But with sponsors and CROs alike looking to IT to make studies more efficient, the expectation among observers is that the incorporation of tech into trials is just getting started.

John Kreger, an analyst of CRO stocks at William Blair, reached this conclusion after talking to some leading service providers about their use of IT. Each has long since made IT tools the foundation of their trials, either by developing in-house technologies or hooking up with eClinical software vendors such as Medidata ($MDSO). Yet while electronic data capture (EDC) is now the norm, in other areas there is still considerable scope to replace manual processes with automated systems or move from gut feelings to data-driven decisions.

With these opportunities yet to be fully tapped, Kreger sees scope for trials to get much deeper into tech. "The application of technology to streamline trials is a key trend that is still early in its adoption cycle," Kreger wrote in a note to investors. Kreger thinks the industry is still in the first half of the adoption cycle. "We suspect that the adoption rates will climb much higher over the next few years, however, as the rate of new technology introductions is increasing and the dynamics of clinical trials are changing rapidly as well," he added.

An obvious example of an area in which there is capacity for tech adoption to rocket is risk-based monitoring (RBM), a much-discussed way of keeping tabs on trial sites and the data they generate that is yet to make the big impact is advocates foresee. Kreger has heard that 10% of clinical trials are using RBM, a figure that should increase as CROs adapt to the removal of technological and regulatory barriers to adoption of an approach tipped to improve data quality while potentially lowering costs.

Infinity Pharmaceuticals ($INFI) hooked up with Medidata late last month to gain access to RBM tech for use in its Phase III trials. Kreger's sources expect more companies to follow suit. "It was implied that nearly all trials could use some form of this approach over the next few years," he wrote.

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