Celgene, Genentech back clinical trial enrollment challenge

Celgene ($CELG) and Genentech are funding a clinical trial innovation prize focused on doubling the rate of participation in studies of cancer drugs. The project is challenging the crowd to submit ideas and evidence of their effectiveness in return for the chance to land a piece of the $75,000 prize kitty.

Lung cancer foundation Free to Breathe organized the initiative, the objective of which is simple: Find ways to increase the proportion of cancer patients who take part in clinical trials. Currently, about 1% to 3% of cancer patients join trials. Free to Breathe, with the financial support of Celgene and Roche's ($RHHBY) Genentech, wants to increase the rate to 3% to 6%. Any viable method of achieving these goals can compete for the prize.

The organizers have thrown their net wide, both in terms of the types of proposals they will consider and the backgrounds of the people behind the ideas. "We feel like some of the greatest ideas can come from anywhere. We didn't want to limit it to people who work in the medical community," Free to Breathe Chief Operating Officer Sherie Reinders told Xconomy. At the time of writing, 35 people from as far away as Nigeria have submitted proposals.

Many of the proposals come from people who work outside of clinical research, with data analysts and information technologists particularly well represented among the initial batch of applicants. People with such skill sets are theoretically well positioned to address some common barriers to participation in clinical trials, such as awareness of available studies and the burden of complying with the protocol.

However, the applicants are far from the first people with IT skills to analyze the enrollment problem. Whether they can come up with effective ideas that have been overlooked by the combined IT might of biopharma, CROs and tech vendors remains to be seen.

- read Xconomy's coverage