Verily partners with Novartis, Otsuka, Pfizer, Sanofi as it moves into clinical trial market

Alphabet's Verily unit on Tuesday announced it has formed strategic alliances with Novartis, Otsuka, Pfizer and Sanofi to develop digitally innovative, patient-centred trial research programmes using Project Baseline's evidence generation platform and tools. Jessica Mega, Verily's chief medical and scientific officer, noted that the company’s new pharmaceutical partners "have been early adopters of advanced technology and digital tools to improve clinical research operations." She added "we need to be inclusive and encourage diversity in research to truly understand health and disease, and to provide meaningful insights about new medicines, medical devices and digital health solutions."

Verily launched Project Baseline in 2017 with a  longitudinal study to collect broad phenotypic health data from around 10 000 participants who will be followed for at least four years. Mega stated at the time that "we hope to create a dataset, tools and technologies that benefit the research ecosystem." Verily indicated that it continues to develop tools like the Baseline Platform, which it describes as "an end-to-end evidence generation platform, to engage more patients and clinicians in research, make it faster to conduct studies and collect higher quality, more comprehensive data from the real world."

Under the new alliances, the companies will explore "novel approaches" to generating real-world data using the Baseline Platform to collect, organise and activate health information from electronic health records, sensors and other digital sources. Over the coming years, the drugmakers each plan to initiate clinical trials using the platform across various therapeutic areas, such as cardiovascular disease, oncology, mental health, dermatology and diabetes.

Since the launch of Project Baseline, Verily said it has developed user-friendly devices, dashboards and analytical tools, providing an "engaging experience" for patients and decision support to researchers. It has also developed an interoperable platform that "provides access to timely, normalised data" in order to streamline trial enrolment and management, as well as a  "robust infrastructure" that allows collection of "dynamic data, like electronic health records, biometric or self-reported information, which may provide significantly more context about the value of an intervention."

According to Debbie Profit, Otsuka's vice president of applied innovation and process improvement, the collaboration aims to "make clinical trials more accessible to patients, and clinical research more precise and targeted so we can obtain results and seek approvals sooner." Rod MacKenzie, chief development officer at Pfizer, noted that "clinical trials haven't changed much since the 1960's. We’ve been thinking about modernising them for some time."

Meanwhile, Badhri Srinivasan, who heads global development operations at Novartis, said "we see Verily's technology as a way for us to reach patients and get them interested." Citing an example of engaging people who are already searching on Google for information on their asthma symptoms, Srinivasan suggested Verily could show an ad to propose that they enroll in its clinical trial patient registry, dubbed Baseline, and sign up for suitable asthma-related clinical trials if they chose to do so.  

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