The Next Disruptor of Clinical Trials? Try Apple

Fabio Gratton, co-founder and CEO, CureClick
Fabio Gratton, co-founder and CEO, CureClick

The announcement of Apple's new ResearchKit platform disrupted the world of clinical innovation and provided a glimpse into the future of medical research.     

By creating an open-source software framework for collecting clinical-trial data, Apple now offers a way for researchers and developers to easily create clinical trial data-collection apps, revolutionizing the way that patients can participate in clinical trials. By enabling the collection of numerous sophisticated data points culled from features inherent in their phone, patients have the potential to participate in studies remotely, liberating them from frequent visits to a research center.   

Various members of the health industry spoke out on the benefits of this approach, as covered in a video on Apple's ResearchKit page. Dr. Mike O'Reilly, VP of medical technologies at Apple, said, “One of the things that ResearchKit will do is put people at the center of research, giving people the insights and the tools they need to lead better lives.” Added Parkinson's disease patient Jody Kearns, “It's going to change research for every condition that's out there–and that just makes it very accessible for patients. The easier you can make it for people to participate, the better off you are going to be.”

Apple may be the first major technology player to introduce a mobile industry standard that could disrupt the current clinical-trial experience for patients, but the company is far from the first to believe that putting patients at the heart of the clinical-trial process is a key component to transforming medical research. Organizations like Patients for Clinical Research, founded by health activists like Tracy Zervakis (@chiaritracy) and Casey Quinlan (@mightycasey), and Partners in Research, founded by Jeri Burtchell (@FingoHead), have been passionately advocating that clinical trials must be made more patient-centric.

While Apple's ResearchKit represents a significant step forward, the challenges associated with clinical-trial participation go well beyond streamlining the data-gathering process. In fact, multiple research studies indicate that over two-thirds of clinical trials fail to meet their enrollment goals because patients either aren't aware of trials or believe that participating in a trials expose them to unsafe medications.

Although the burdensome data-gathering requirements of clinical trials creates significant retention attrition rates, awareness and fear still play a critical role in the lack of clinical trial participation. Disruptive upstarts like CureClick (of which I am co-founder and CEO) and TrialReach offer solutions to these challenges.

CureClick, for example, is designed to leverage the trusted connections that exist in social media communities to reach and educate prospective patients about clinical trials. Our platform, powered by WEGO Health's formidable health activist network, is already being used by some of the largest pharmaceutical companies to find participants for difficult-to-recruit trials.

TrialReach, a startup that recently raised $13.5 million, is creating the world's largest directory of clinical-trial information by aggregating clinical trial registries such as the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform and ClinicalTrials.govTrialReach has focused on creating a technology platform that simplifies the complex trial information abstracts into patient-friendly language.

Since its launch in November of 2014, CureClick's community crowdsourcing platform has helped recruit patients into trials for diabetes, Alzheimer's, asthma and several cancers. These results are made possible by the platform's ability to train and activate some of the industry's most influential patient opinion leaders.

“When it comes to participating in clinical trials, we're not just early adopters,” notes Alicia Staley (@stales), a CureClick advisory board member and three-time survivor of breast cancer. “We're committed survivors. And that means we need to take every ounce of energy we have and put it right back into the system that helped us to survive. It's a system comprised of people, information, research, innovation and lots of hope.”

Fabio Gratton is the co-founder and CEO of CureClick.