Oracle rolls out cloud apps for clinical trial recruitment

Drugmakers hunt far and wide for patients to take part in their clinical trials, making study recruitment one of the trickiest and time-consuming aspects of product development. Now the software giant Oracle ($ORCL) has set up cloud-based applications that aim to ease the burden of rounding up qualified subjects for clinical studies.

The company plans to announce today the kickoff of Oracle Health Sciences Network, which consists of applications built on a cloud computing system that enable, say, a pharma company and a medical research institution to share data on patients in a HIPAA-compliant fashion. The maiden apps include one for patient recruitment in clinical trials and one other for validating study protocols, providing tools to quickly check protocols and enlist patients in studies based on individuals' clinical and genetic data, according to Oracle.

Pharma sponsors have been working with research hospitals on clinical trials for a long time, of course, with drug developers tapping the treatment facilities to serve as study sites and for access to suitable patients for their trials. Yet patient recruitment often lags, causing trials to miss key deadlines. Now that patient records have gone digital, Pfizer ($PFE) and other drugmakers are keen on the idea of speeding up the recruitment process with electronic searches for patients.

To share digital data on potential study patients, there are technical, cultural and security hurdles, according to Kris Joshi, global vice president of healthcare product strategy at Oracle Health Sciences. In some cases, research hospitals simply don't want to share their data with others. For those that do want to share, there are costs of building the IT infrastructure to support connections between collaborators. Yet even then data leaks can spook collaborators back into their shells.

"They actually do want to collaborate," Joshi tells FierceBiotech IT, "but they are afraid to do so. Security is a consideration that prevents people from collaborating."

Oracle has been working on the new product with Aurora Health Care, a nonprofit care provider based in Wisconsin, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania. And a bevy of healthcare providers, drug companies, research institutions and tech companies such as Oracle have joined forces in a nonprofit effort based in New York called the Partnership to Advance Clinical electronic Research (PACeR), which will consider Oracle's new cloud-based offering to build an electronic clinical research network.