Syneos Health has acquired data analytics and artificial intelligence firm RxDataScience. The deal is designed to help Syneos forge quicker, more strategic solutions from huge data sets, including ones around decentralized trials and the patient journey.

“We’re seeing the incredible upside opportunity that advanced analytics, data science and AI offers,” said Syneos Health chief strategy officer Baba Shetty, who characterized RxDataScience’s approach as “true agile.”

“You hear ‘agile’ being used a lot these days in different settings, but RxDataScience solves some very fundamental problems around data science in an iterative sprint-based way,” he added.

Shetty pointed to RxDataScience’s rapid data lab, which executes six- to eight-week “sprints” around a specific data-oriented challenge. At the end of the process, the company presents a potential solution.

“That’s very attractive to a lot of clients, because projects often take months or years and are quite expensive,” Shetty explained. “This whole idea of doing these iterative sprints, and proving out the value and scaling it – it’s a very pragmatic approach.”

Shetty said Syneos will apply the tools and processes acquired in the RxDataScience deal for data analysis on increasing clinical trial diversity and accessibility for underserved populations. Then there’s Syneos’ work on clinical trial protocols, which involves natural language processing vis-a-vis clinical protocol documents. Shetty also sees machine vision applications as a growth area, particularly in image-focused therapeutic areas like dermatology, cardiology and radiology.

As for the debate around strengthening data and analytics offerings – and in particular the question of whether to buy a practice or build it from scratch – Shetty believes a hybrid approach is likely to pay the most dividends.

“You want to have an organic, built-yourself approach as your foundation, and that’s what we’ve done,” Shetty said, noting that the acquisition effectively doubles the scale of Syneos’ offering. “We found great alignment culturally between how these guys like to work and how we like to work, so I’m a big fan of build and buy – but with very specific kinds of criteria for when each makes the most sense.”