GSK working to build Apple's ResearchKit into its clinical trials

GSK's Michelle Crouthamel

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has revealed it is working to integrate Apple's ($AAPL) ResearchKit into its clinical trials, setting it up to be one of the first drug developers to adopt the recently introduced platform. The Big Pharma sees the open-source research app as a useful tool for data collection.

Michelle Crouthamel, project manager at GSK's digital platform performance unit, disclosed the company's interest in ResearchKit to BuzzFeed News but declined to provide specific details of its intentions. There is clearly a curiosity within parts of GSK to see what ResearchKit can do in trials, though. Crouthamel said the current focus is on integrating ResearchKit into clinical trial programs, adding that GSK is "planning to start in coming months." If the project goes live, GSK will join a short list of academic centers to create apps on Apple's nascent research platform.

Many of the academic centers achieved unprecedented enrollment figures when their apps went live, thrusting the potential--and shortcomings--of ResearchKit to the forefront of discussions about the future of research. Purdue Pharma is among the companies to have held such discussions internally and was more forthcoming about its thoughts on the topic than GSK. Purdue CIO Larry Pickett Jr. said his team views ResearchKit as "a very significant milestone" in converting the hype around tech in trials into models that work for biopharma companies.

Pickett is treading carefully, though. Purdue has assessed the platform but is yet to decide whether to build an app, or even settle on the type of data it wants to collect. Being a for-profit venture adds a layer of complexity. "We don't want to make a false step and for some reason make people think that information's being collected or shared that's really not. You have to be crystal clear about that. That's why it makes sense to proceed with caution and make sure that all those privacy issues are really made very, very clear upfront and are decided and agreed upon," Pickett said.

Privacy is one of many issues that a company would need to get straight before incorporating Apple's tool into their research programs. For some, the potential benefits are yet to outweigh the costs. Gilead ($GILD) and Pfizer ($PFE) both said they have no plans to use ResearchKit. 

- read the BuzzFeed News' article