Scientific Community Takes On 'Patient Centric Drug Development in the Digital Era' at MedImmune Translational Science Forum

Patient-centered care is often referred to in the context of traditional healthcare, but scientists at MedImmune will tell you: Focusing on improving the patient journey –  from earlier diagnosis to integrated and/or targeted assessment – is, and has been, a top priority.

MedImmune isn’t alone. Much of the biotech industry is shifting away from the “one-​size-​fit-​all” approach to drug development, and a patient centric paradigm is emerging ­– notably with the rise of data collected from non-traditional methods in the real-world setting and better ways to analyze that data.

But exactly how are digital technologies transforming this new paradigm, particularly patients’ and drug developers’ understanding of diseases and treatment options?

On October 9, 2018, MedImmune hosted a one-​​day Translational Science Forum in the Bay Area, gathering academic institutions, industry leaders, and other experts in the drug development ecosystem to assess this critical question.

If you missed the event, here’s the top takeaways and findings from a roster of expert speakers:

1. Redefining cancer treatments: Immunotherapy has changed the cancer treatment landscape. According to Jeff Bluestone, Distinguished Professor of Metabolism and Endocrinology at UCSF and President and CEO of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, scientists and researchers must complement the explosion in the use of checkpoint inhibitors, which remove the brakes on immune responses, with developing anticancer drugs that are “immune activators,” that “step on the gas.”

However, unfortunately, “even when immunity wins, there can be a price to pay,” said Bluestone. Activating the immune system using these powerful immune modulators in this way can lead to serious immune-related adverse events such as type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases. New technologies and approaches developed by companies like the Parker Institute and Google Inc.—who also spoke at the Forum— will hopefully enable scientists to predict or determine who is most susceptible to immune-related adverse events.

2. Patient-centered, patient-owned care: Technology is fundamentally changing the patient experience, posing the question — how can patients be best connected with the therapies they need?

Sathya Elumalai, CEO of Multisensor Diagnostics, described the innovative MouthLab – a single device that is designed to rapidly measure multiple health factors, including temperature, blood pressure and heart rate variability, in real time and sends them to Cloud.

Experiential data platforms like Evidation –whose technology is working to capture and analyze passive, continuous behavior data to quantify health outcomes – are also disrupting this model, enabling patients to personally navigate their care and analyze their data.

Christine Lemke, Co-​founder and President of Evidation said, "Patients need to know their data and health history. We're changing the invisible to something visible to not just the patient, but the healthcare system as a whole."

3. Data collection: Better predictions, better stratifications, stable results: Key to any scientific process is quality data that can be converted into useful insights. Yet, previous generation models for collecting data are often seen as inefficient and expensive. Clinical trials, for example — while an absolute vital phase of a medicine’s development — have been criticized for being complicated, lengthy, costly and not particularly patient-centric.

MedImmune’s Ann Taylor—Vice President of Clinical Development—explained, “The standard way of developing a trial is to enroll patients in a study, bring them into the clinic; the patient receives treatment, the physician analyzes the results, and then… TBD. Most clinical trial patients don't know the results of the trial.” However, she added, “Digital technologies have a potential to transform clinical trials and medical care delivery by simplifying logistics, improving patient engagement, and enabling early adaptation of the trial depending on the responses that are being observed.”

According to Lisa Suennen, Managing Partner of Venture Valkyrie, technology is already doing this—changing the clinical trial process by matching patients faster, virtualizing the process and enabling rapid feedback and responses. It also provides convenient real time health monitoring and improved engagement and satisfaction.

Jeff Elton, CEO of Concerto Health AI, whose mission is to accelerate drug development, clinical trials, HEOR analytics and patient outcomes through definitive RWD and AI solutions, said “Some of the data info that can be collected by digital technology is actually superior to what we can collect in person.”

Ultimately, speakers noted that a primary reason why people don't participate in clinical trials is because they don't know about them or live too far away to participate. Companies at the Forum like Science 37 and THREAD are looking to support and accelerate biomedical research by putting patients’ needs first.


John Reites, Chief Product Officer of THREAD, a tech platform that helps customers conduct remote and virtual studies, said “Remote and virtual clinical trials: This is an inevitability.  We have to get our heads wrapped around this.”

4. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable - AI and Machine Learning: Daphne Koller, Founder and CEO, insitro, artificial intelligence is the task of getting computers to do the type of intelligent tasks that humans do; machine learning is the task of getting computer to perform these tasks through data and repeat these tasks really, really well. Both will be increasingly central to achieving health outcomes and efficiency goals when it comes to drug development and innovation, she said. However, there is some trepidation about integration of this technology.

On that point, Suennen said, “most people are buzzing about AI and Machine Learning, [yet] people feel uncomfortable with AI. And why would they feel comfortable? No one was trained in this, but we're seeing it pop up everywhere.” If we can get comfortable with the uncomfortable, he suggested, our potential is limitless in drug development and personalized medicine.

There is no question digital technology is rapidly and continually transforming patient care today. With data and analytics unlocking new insights into patient behavior; new patient experiences and business models shaping clinical outcomes; machine learning showing us things we have never seen before – the future is clearly now. We thank our speakers and participants at the third annual MedImmune Translation Science Form for issuing a call to action: It’s time to get doing.