Quintiles upgrades Apple ResearchKit with open source additions

The largest biopharma contract research group, Quintiles ($Q), has weighed in with its deep clinical trial experience to contribute open source enhancements to Apple's ($AAPL) ResearchKit. The effort involved adding more sophisticated application features beyond the basic three modules first introduced by Apple in March. The move isn't altruistic; the CRO plans to develop patient engagement ResearchKit-based apps for use in its own clinical trials with a particular focus on neurodegenerative diseases including dementia.

If anyone knows the complexity of tracking patient behavior, it's Quintiles. The company has conducted more than 400 direct-to-patient clinical trials since 2008.

Richard Thomas, Quintiles President of Technology and Solutions

"Quintiles' contribution of these enhancements is a significant advancement within the clinical research industry," Quintiles President of Technology and Solutions Richard Thomas said in a statement. "They will not only improve the apps Quintiles develops for its own use, but can enhance all apps developed using ResearchKit."

He added, "Working with the ResearchKit framework gives us a profound understanding of its capabilities and how best to optimize it in the apps we develop for our clinical research customers."

Part of Quintiles' client offering is to build apps for specific clinical trial customers. Quintiles' contribution to ResearchKit indicates that the open source software framework for tracking patient behavior is becoming core to its clinical trial business.

The enhancements are intended specifically to make the ResearchKit experience more patient-centric as well as to introduce additional patient support tools that are expected to induce more frequent use of the apps. The new code is available via GitHub.

In a recent white paper on the ResearchKit by Quintiles, the CRO stated that the three modules released by Apple with its rollout are inadequate. Although tens of thousands of patients quickly signed up for five clinical trials using ResearchKit, it notes that the original modules for study participation consent, survey development and linking to devices and sensors "do not have all the functionality needed to enable complex trials and registries," the paper summed up.

Quintiles plans to focus its development of applications specifically in neurodegenerative diseases including dementia, where it has identified a need to follow patients for the long-term as well as to address the significant complexity in disease and patient tracking these indications present.

"Quintiles believes that smart devices and direct-to-patient research will be disruptive forces in the health and life sciences industry," says the white paper. "We are already investing in this space and will continue to do so. However, we see tremendous value in working together with a group of leading pharmaceutical companies to co-develop applications leveraging smart devices to facilitate new models of patient-centered research."

- here is the announcement
- and here are further details on Quintiles' approach to the ResearchKit