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Three Lessons Learned From Designing a Modern R&D Technology Architecture for Future-Ready Trials

During the 2021 Clinical Operations Retreat for Executives (CORE) hosted by Halloran Consulting Group, two life sciences industry leaders and veterans, Raj Indupuri, eClinical Solutions Co-Founder and CEO and Douglas Barta, CIO of Cerevel Therapeutics talked through “Digital Transformation at Cerevel & The Modern Clinical Trial”.

Coming out of the retreat, here is some additional insight and lessons we shared about transitioning to the modern clinical trial and how to manage and streamline the many sources of clinical trial data.

Background: The Rise of the Modern Clinical Trial

The gold standard of clinical research has been the randomized controlled trial (RCT), but incremental improvements have been made especially in response to COVID-19, infusing decentralized and digital components into a clinical trial. The ‘modern clinical trial’ is not just about adopting new technology, but also how the trial data is viewed, monitored, and managed and the opportunities created to optimize new insights from these digital data streams. Digital health technologies offer opportunities to advance clinical research and create patient optionality, to look at new ways to collect and process trial data, and to centralize data streams for greater control, oversight, and real-time access to clinical data. Still, clinical data is often processed in many instances through manual paper workflows and numerous excel trackers which can impede the flow of information and decision making. With new approaches to clinical data automation, standardization and review there are opportunities to measure digital endpoints and process information more frequently, accurately, and holistically.

More Data, More Problems

These digital transformations are all happening now – methods that were previously but not as widely used before the COVID-19 global health crisis are becoming more commonplace through the adoption of hybrid and fully virtual trials.

Drug development is undergoing a transformation of great magnitude driven by the digitization of clinical development, alongside the rise of big data due to the enhanced landscape of digital health technologies capturing so much information. Now we’re perhaps at a new normal, where our industry is learning to adapt to new data management solutions, an expanded number of data sources, and the unprecedented increase in data volume.

Cerevel: A Clean Slate Opportunity to Accelerate Digital Drug Development

As the variety, velocity, and volume of clinical data has increased in recent years, so has the need for designing an optimized clinical data architecture that takes full advantage of modern data streams and analytics. As a new company that had a portfolio of assets already in development, Cerevel Therapeutics had an opportunity to design from scratch a modern R&D architecture tailored for the digital trials of today and tomorrow.

Three Lessons Learned
  • Differentiate on Analytics – Every R&D organization is designed to support the collection, review and analysis of high quality, regulatory compliant clinical data. Cerevel chose to take an “Analytics First” approach and to build their technology infrastructure around analytics as a core and strategic competency across the development enterprise. This meant designing systems with the end in mind, ensuring the flow and access to data by key decision makers and thinking about analytics and dashboards across the portfolio as a top priority and primary requirement. One choice the company made was to invest in a centralized data platform, the elluminate® Clinical Data Cloud which centralizes data from all sources for data management, review, standardization and analytics. This approach was particularly helpful with the pandemic as Cerevel was able to create a company-wide dashboard which pulled in data from trials and publicly available sources to track virus spread, as well as the impact on Cerevel trials by region and site for planning purposes and to optimize resources needed to support site staff and participants in ongoing trials.
  • Take a Buy versus Build Approach – With the significant scale up of software as a service (SAAS) computing applications in recent years, Cerevel chose to take a “buy” approach and identify the best of breed systems that exist in the market today. They chose not to build their own systems for three primary reasons:
    • Cost – IT organizations almost always underestimate the time it takes to build and then support internal software platforms
    • Fastest time to value – There are commercially available software platforms for all segments of the market and the ability to scale up validated out-of-the-box systems for use in months is possible with almost all of them. Time to value was critical to the rapid scale of the organization which had trials up and running and the need to review data continuously.
    • Future Proof – Buying a platform means a provider is always working on the next version, updating their capabilities to meet the needs of other companies that are evolving and anticipating the needs of the market. An internally built platform is focused on meeting needs of current end users today which may limit future-ready capabilities.
  • Design for Digitally Enabled End Users – Modern clinical trials are different from the brick-and-mortar RCT model because they entail – or at least aim – to have a unified, convenient experience for the sponsor and to have one single platform for clinical data to provide vast insight to their trial’s operations. Digital trials now include social, mobile and local (SoLoMo) aspects and finding ways to always do better for participants, for sites and for clinical teams responsible for running and delivering data to regulators is what drives the Cerevel business. This end user experience is fueled by the following needs:
    • A robust data and technology strategy with defined business outcomes for pervasive transformation and automation
    • Leverage a platform-centric approach to manage the increasing volume of data
    • Invest interoperable ecosystem of tools, technology, and clinical systems

So, where do we go from here? As a sponsor, harnessing digital health technology to enhance your clinical trials is not just a box check, it is a strategic imperative and an opportunity for sustaining competitive advantage.

As trials become more dependent on advanced technologies, organizations must take steps to embrace the transformation of traditional clinical processes. This new white paper walks through the key components of defining a data strategy that embraces digital transformation and helps companies prepare for the digitization of today’s clinical trials.

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