Real-World Data: The future of healthcare, pharma and tech

Global pharmaceutical giant Roche is well known for its innovative diagnostic tests and medicines as well as personalized healthcare strategies, especially in oncology. With a market cap of $219.3 billion[1], Roche’s recent investment of $1.9 billion in acquiring a young healthcare company, Flatiron[2], might seem nothing out of the ordinary at first glance. However, Roche’s interest in Flatiron is an exciting development in the industry. It has the potential to produce ground-breaking efficiencies in clinical research and points towards a new digital order in the industry.

Who is Flatiron?

Based in New York, Flatiron was founded by ex-Google employees Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg in 2012 and is now valued at $2.1 billion[3]. Flatiron combines technology and Real-World Data (RWD) to facilitate advances in oncology research and enhance the quality of patient care.

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Both Nat and Zach had personal experiences of cancer within their families which inspired them to work towards a solution to improve the understanding and treatment of cancer. Witnessing the journey of a cancer patient first hand highlighted the caveats in the current healthcare system which motivated them to consider a new strategy to rectify this.

By building a network of contacts in the oncology realm, Flatiron was able to innovate and develop an electronic medical record system that collects valuable RWD from oncologists. Using this technology to structure the currently available RWD within a connected community will enable the company to accelerate research processes in the healthcare industry.

So, why did Roche invest in Flatiron?

Prior to this investment, Roche held 12.6% equity of Flatiron and found they were best positioned to provide data analytics that would develop solutions for new cancer treatments. This alliance is predicted to be highly profitable for Roche as their global presence and influence is surely going to impact the clinical trial industry by speeding up and reducing cost of clinical trials.

A shared vision between the two companies is the importance of generating international awareness of RWD to speed up the process of producing personalised cancer drugs. Flatiron’s regulatory ‘grade’ data should enable Roche to ensure their research, based on this data, can be approved without hesitations. “Regulatory-grade real-world evidence is a key ingredient to accelerate the development of, and access to, new cancer treatments,” said Daniel O’Day, Roche’s CEO.[4]

Ultimately, it’s a win-win situation for both parties; Roche will save time for Flatiron by helping it achieve its ultimate goal of treating cancer faster, while Flatiron will save Roche money by cutting out costs in its clinical trials through its efficient data processes. The future of oncology research and treatment definitely looks promising!

What does the future look like for other health-tech companies?

It’s inspiring to see a young company gaining recognition and building their network with big pharma companies. As Flatiron has proved, being recognized by such big pharma companies can raise a lot of awareness, via social media amongst other platforms, about the importance of data and innovation in the clinical trial industry and it is a trend that looks set to grow.

There is no doubt we will see more collaborations like this one occurring in the near future. The combination of tech-savvy and market leading pharmaceutical companies offers a big opportunity to advance the world of clinical trials.

Take Ignite, for example! We are a fast-growing UK-based research company using RWD and technology to streamline research. Our main aim is to facilitate the smooth running of clinical trials without delays and hefty costs. To achieve this, we ensure that the right patients, from the right region, are recruited onto the right study. Using EHR to identify protocol-aligned patients ensures an efficient recruitment process which saves the sponsor running the study both time and money.

RWD is not new, but how it is now being used in more innovative ways as the pharmaceutical/healthcare industry responds to challenges presented by the ever-changing environment in which it operates and the constant need to shorten time from ‘bench to bedside’.

The collaboration between healthcare, technology and pharma is set to revolutionize patient treatments not only in the UK, but globally. Watch this space!

By Roma Murjani and Kayleigh Penfold-Welch