PatientsLikeMe adds AstraZeneca to growing list of big-name clients

PatientsLikeMe has struck a 5-year deal to support R&D at AstraZeneca ($AZN). The agreement tops off a busy and important 12 months for the patient network, in which it has also expanded relationships with Biogen ($BIIB), Roche's ($RHHBY) Genentech and Swiss biopharma Actelion.

AstraZeneca will focus initially on using patient-reported data from PatientsLikeMe to guide R&D in respiratory disease, lupus, diabetes and oncology, before expanding out into other therapeutic areas in which the Big Pharma is active. The main objective is to better understand what patients are going through and what they value in a treatment. In theory, working such data into R&D programs should cut the risk of developing a drug that is clinically effective but fails to fit in with the lives of patients. Such an oversight was partly to blame for the demise of Pfizer's ($PFE) inhaled insulin Exubera.

A growing band of drugmakers and service providers are taking an interest in PatientsLikeMe's ability to help avoid such missteps. The big breakthrough came almost exactly one year ago when Genentech entered into a wide-reaching 5-year deal with PatientsLikeMe. Prior to that deal, PatientsLikeMe had entered into collaborations with the likes of UCB and CRO inVentiv Health, but the breadth of the Genentech alliance set it apart. Since then, deals with Actelion, AstraZeneca and Biogen have come to light.

Biogen VP Richard Rudick

PatientsLikeMe followed up the news of the AstraZeneca alliance with the publication of data from its collaboration with Biogen. The companies collaborated on a project to track the activity of people with multiple sclerosis, in which 248 PatientsLikeMe members were given Fitbit One devices. Most participants reacted favorably to the devices and said they will continue to use them now the trial has finished, an outcome that has implications for how the health of MS patients is assessed in clinical trials and healthcare.

"MS impairs the ability to walk for many people with MS, yet we only assess walking ability in the limited time a patient is in the doctor's office. Consumer devices can measure number of steps, distance walked and sleep quality on a continuous basis in a person's home environment. These data could provide potentially important information to supplement office visit exams," Biogen VP of value-based medicine Dr. Richard Rudick said in a statement.

- read the AstraZeneca release
- here's the Biogen news

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