Startup aims to tap wisdom of the crowd for low-cost drug trials

As drugmakers struggle to control high development costs, a New York-based startup called Transparency Life Sciences has hatched with big plans to drastically lower the cost of drug development with a series of fixes supported by information technology. 

Transparency last month unveiled an online platform that allows stakeholders in clinical development to chime in with insights that influence the company's clinical trials design--embracing elements of crowdsourcing and open innovation. To limit the cost of trials, the company plans to use telemedicine systems that limit the number of times patients in trials have to go to study clinics, Xconomy reported. Whether the company's model is effective at lowering costs will be tested in clinical trials that involve repurposed medicines, the company says.

Drugmakers have begun to look at new ways to streamline pricey trials with online tools. Last year, Pfizer ($PFE), which has been trying to slash internal R&D costs, launched a virtual trial of sorts to study its approved drug Detrol for overactive bladder, testing the use of mobile devices and the Internet for patients to report their progress. The company and its peers are keen on cutting the cost of bringing drugs to market, which Forbes last month reported carries an $8 billion to $12 billion price tag per product.

Planning its own virtual trials, Transparency aims to get started with a study of the anti-hypertensive drug lisinopril in the new indication of treating multiple sclerosis. Other trials are planned to test drugs for vascular disease and inflammatory bowel disease, according to the company. CEO Tomasz Sablinski wants to test the company's hypothesis for cost-reduction with studies involving off-patent drugs.

Yet Sablinski's ambitions are to expand the use of the open innovation model of development beyond off-patent drugs, hoping to eventually pick up candidates from pharmas without the funds to develop them.

"The real target is to get all these disparate assets from pharma--compounds that can't move because they require budgets that are too high," he told Xconomy. "We will try to develop them with beautiful ideas from the crowd."

- check out Xconomy's recent article
- and see the company's release from Jan. 31

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