Billing itself as “the OpenTable of clinical trials,” a Philadelphia startup has launched PatientWing, an online network that gives patients, caregivers, physicians, trial sponsors and research sites a streamlined way to connect.
“Our company, VitalTrax, is borne out of a mission to make it easy for patients to participate in clinical trials,” says CEO and co-founder Zikria Syed. “We were investigating challenges in clinical trials and learned that lack of participants is the number one reason for failure. Furthermore, we started to notice the inefficiency patients faced while trying to participate in a trial — they spend countless hours calling or emailing someone at a research facility, and sometimes can’t even get to the right person.”
This can lead to missed opportunities for life-saving treatment. VitalTrax’s solution gives patients an easy way to apply and manage their overall progress; the company also provides the research facility with an efficient online system to manage patient participation.
It works like this: Sponsors publish and promote their clinical trials on PatientWing. Patients fill out their information, verify their eligibility and request a screening appointment online. If staff at the research facility determines that the patient is a good fit, the appointment is confirmed. PatientWing also allows for easy email and social media sharing, and patient referrals.
“Finding the right clinical trial is not a solo journey,” explains Syed. “Family, friends and physicians come together to assist [patients] in finding these lifesaving trials.”
For some patients in the case of terminal diseases, experimental drugs in clinical trials may offer the only hope for survival.Zikria Syed, VitalTrax
PatientWing’s functionality is a significant improvement over clinicaltrials.gov, which many patients rely on.
“Clinicaltrials.gov is a clinical trial registry, so it is not optimized for searching,” he says. “The data is often too technical. What can take hours to find on that site can be accomplished in minutes on PatientWing. Not only that, clinicaltrials.gov simply gives you a listing of trials. It’s up to you to contact each site and submit your application. We handle both finding the trials and submitting applications for patients.”
The potential for PatientWing is enormous. There are currently over 255,000 research studies listed on clinicaltrials.gov. By some estimates, over 100 million patient volunteers are needed.
Syed and Todd Kueny co-founded VitalTrax in 2016. Both are veterans of NextDocs, which delivered clinical trials document management technologies to pharmaceutical companies; it was sold to Aurea in 2015.
Looking ahead, VitalTrax is doing R&D to incorporate artificial intelligence into its platform.
“We are investing in AI to match patients with trials [using machine learning to narrow which patients qualify for which trials], and to help pharmaceutical companies select research sites based on a range of factors such as demographic data and prior performance of research sites,” says Syed.
He adds that these decisions can be, literally, a matter of life and death.
“For some patients in the case of terminal diseases … experimental drugs in clinical trials [may] offer the only hope for survival.”
ELISE VIDER is news editor of Keystone Edge.