About 77% of clinical research execs expect to run decentralized trials in next 12 months: survey

Hybrid trials, hybrid trials, hybrid trials. Say it enough, and they will come. It appears the virtual or decentralized clinical trial landscape is here to stay as the growth of theses studies could outpace new traditional site-based studies in the coming year, according to Science 37.

That's based on a survey of 127 senior clinical research executives conducted during September and October. About 77% of respondents said they plan to run a hybrid trial in the next 12 months compared to 59% for the previous year. That's slightly higher than the 7 in 10 who said they plan to run traditional, site-based studies in the next 12 months.

Take it with a grain of salt, though, as the survey comes from one of the industry's biggest virtual trial providers. 

Those numbers are roughly comparable to a nearly 300-respondent survey from Veeva Systems last month that found 87% of sponsors and CROs use or plan to conduct trials digitally versus 28% that did prior to the pandemic. 

RELATED: Decentralized clinical trials skyrocketed during pandemic, but patient experience mixed bag: survey

Oncology is the most prevalent disease category for decentralized clinical trials, with 46% of respondents planning to run such studies in the next year, an 11% year-over-year increase, according to the survey. 

Disease areas expected to have the biggest increase in hybrid trial uptake are oncology, the central nervous system, rare diseases and immunology. Nearly all stages of clinical development will see significant increases, ranging from phase 2 to phase 4, according to the survey.

Decentralized trials have been heralded by some as a way to increase patient retention, speed up recruitment and enhance patient experience. Yet the new landscape of hybrid trials still needs to overcome hurdles such as integrating sites with hybrid methods, improving in-house capabilities and addressing regulatory concerns, the survey concluded. 

RELATED: Medable adds $304M to treasure chest with 4th raise in 18 months for virtual trials

The rising number of virtual or hybrid clinical trials comes as investors pump a hefty amount of cash into startups in the decentralized study world. For its part, Science 37 went public last month—raising $235 million in proceeds via its blank-check merger—and now has a market capitalization of $1.48 billion. 

Competitor Medable reeled in $521 million in the past 18 months, including a whopping $304 million series D last month. Reify Health has also raised hundreds of millions, with a $220 million series C in August.

And don't forget the crop of younger startups also raising dough: Lightship, Castor, Slope, ObvioHealth and others.