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Category Archives: Blog

Timing is Everything: Why Prospective Biospecimen Collection Is Important

Scientists today are increasingly focused on delivering medical innovations tailored to real-world patients. Developing these therapies can be costly, however, and part of the cost can be connected to identifying the right patient sub-population too late in the development process. At Novaseek Research, we aim to drastically reduce the time required to identify the right patient cohorts with well-categorized and detailed clinical phenotypes and help clinical researchers prospectively obtain biospecimens
enriched with EMR-sourced, fully consented patient data. Identifying the right patient cohorts early on increases clinical researchers’ success and saves a lot of time and money in the process.

When our Novaseek team came together, obtaining biospecimens prospectively was key to our innovative approach. We knew that our biggest impact would be made by getting the right biospecimens to clinical researchers with as much information about the patients as possible. Rather than looking through freezers of existing biospecimens to meet researchers’ needs, we enable
researchers to identify the types of patients from whom they would need to collect biospecimens. Based upon criteria set by the researchers, our Clinical Data Network for Research (CDNR) platform would then identify patients who met those criteria within our network of hospital partners, and further identify
biospecimens remaining from the patients’ clinical testing, allowing those specimens to be repurposed for research, rather than being discarded by the hospitals’ labs. Of course, the patients’ information is coded within CDNR, fully consented and HIPAA-compliant.

CDNR enables biomedical and clinical researchers to define criteria for patients and biospecimens based on detailed clinical needs, including primary disease, co-morbidities, medications prescribed, and medical events within a certain timeframe and more. This data is accessible via a user-friendly interface and allows researchers to request highly specialized biospecimens, as well as to follow patients over time and collect medical data updates and biospecimens as disease or treatment progresses. There are several advantages to this approach:

  • Identifying specific groups of patients early in the development process allows clinical researchers to test and tweak responses in different patient sub-populations through observational studies, helping inform the next steps. It’s an extremely flexible approach that can accommodate the latest scientific and medical needs.
  • We can track patients longitudinally and prospectively. For example, one Novaseek customer needed to evaluate the performance of a novel biomarker in patients with life-threatening acute conditions, such as heart attack, stroke and organ failure, requiring the collection of biospecimens shortly after an acute event and at multiple timepoints during patient recovery. We were able to set up the project within a few days and provide consented biospecimens and data at the right points in time, from shortly after the acute event and over the course of patient recovery.

The system we’ve built and our approach fills an unmet need by researchers and hospitals alike. While CDNR allows clinical researchers to easily identify patient cohorts and obtain biospecimens in a speedy manner, CDNR also enables hospitals and large practices to easily participate in research. Most of all, we
are thrilled to play a role in getting better medicines to patients faster.

The HBS Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator: A Powerful Voice in Precision Medicine

Last Thursday Novaseek Research had the chance to listen in on the Harvard Business School Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator Oncology Data Landscape Update call. The Kraft Accelerator was established last year to speed breakthroughs in precision medicine. The Accelerator aims to enable faster commercialization of high-impact innovations by addressing challenges that slow the advancement of precision medicine and disseminating best practices and models to overcome them.

Last week’s talk focused on the data landscape and its importance in driving precision medicine forward. The need is recognized across the industry, and the Kraft Accelerator is working to collate many databases that have been created by industry and outside organizations into a single, powerful resource for oncology. They are populating the database through crowdsourcing and taking a number of innovative approaches to build the database further. Scientists will access the database to create synthetic cohorts of patients and draw insights based upon vast amounts of real world patient data searchable to the most minute genomic sequence. It’s an incredible project, and one that will advance oncology research significantly.

However, there is a missing link. The phenomenal insights we would be able to gain need to be tied to real world patients. It underscores the importance of the Novaseek offering. As scientists define even more precisely the type of patient they are seeking for research, and later for linking the right treatment to the right patient, access to those patients and human biospecimens matching those specific criteria becomes even more critical to successful research and clinical studies. Using the CDNR platform from Novaseek, scientists can procure clinical data and human biospecimens that match exactly the characteristics identified in the cohort of interest and continue to follow those patients prospectively as they continue their research.

Novaseek has a place at this precision medicine accelerator table. By offering an end-to-end solution for researchers, Novaseek’s CDNR provides real world clinical data and clinical data-enriched biospecimens for translational medicine, clinical feasibility and observational studies. It is encouraging to be part of an industry where so many are working tirelessly toward the same goal of getting better medicines to patients faster, leveraging technological advances not only for data analytics, but also for machine learning and crowdsourcing. We have an exciting new era of healthcare ahead.

Musings from the Digital Medicine Showcase

Last month I had the opportunity to present Novaseek’s CDNR platform at the second annual Digital Medicine Showcase. This event is a part of the Biotech Showcase event that takes place during the J.P. Morgan Annual Healthcare Conference. Digital Medicine Showcase brings together innovative companies and gives them a forum to present their clinically impactful digital technologies to an audience of venture capital and private equity investors, pharmaceutical executives and professional advisors. I was so thrilled to share our approach to providing real world data-enriched biospecimens for translational medicine, clinical feasibility and observational studies. It was Novaseek’s second year at Digital Medicine Showcase, and we were able to detail updates to our CDNR technology that we recently announced. We also were excited to share some of the use cases and examples of studies that Novaseek currently is enabling for our pharmaceutical, biotechnology and diagnostic customers. If you’d like to see our presentation, please click here.

Even over the past year, digital medicine has gained a lot of traction. It was evident in the expansion of Digital Medicine Showcase conference, from an afternoon in a single room last year, to a two-day event this year. Thirty companies presented, with offerings ranging from live coaching, to virtual reality, to digital treatments for enhanced outcomes, to gaming apps, in areas as diverse as smoking cessation, to mental health, to diabetes. The industry has advanced rapidly in the past five years, but the feeling is that the next five years will be even more critical in determining the collaborations and partnerships that will shift medical care from a position of reaction to one of proactive health management.

Advances in technology have been a driving force in this evolution, particularly with the transition to EHRs and the technological ability to integrate records from multiple sources and to manipulate and analyze large volumes of data. Such advances in technology make our CDNR offering possible, enabling us to connect researchers with real world data and patients in an entirely new way. CDNR offers researchers the ability to procure human biospecimens enriched with data from EHRs, including lab test results, medical history, medication information – and to follow patients prospectively during the course of the disease or treatment. CDNR also offers population analytics features that facilitate insights into the effect of various co-morbidities or drug classes on the progression of disease. Armed with this extensive data and the ability to incorporate these data-laden human biospecimens into their work, researchers can develop more effective and precise options for patients in need.

We are only beginning to tap the power of real world clinical data for research. As we continue this trend, patients will be the true beneficiaries of these advances as scientists are able to develop better medicines sooner, ultimately improving the lives of patients and their families.

Leveraging the Power of Data: The Role of Patient Consent and Efficiency

Last month, Foundation Medicine and Flatiron Health announced an initiative to assemble large genomic databases built around the electronic health records (EHRs), of 20,000 cancer patients. The purpose of this initiative would be to provide a real world data-based tool for oncology reseachers.

It’s exciting to think about the possibilities that this type of database holds, from understanding and identifying mutations that may be affected by certain types of drugs, to enrolling specific patient cohorts into clinical trials based upon genetic similarities. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Considering that currently only 4 percent of cancer patients participate in clinical trials, there are vast amounts of data held in these health records of the other 96 percent of cancer patients that could be a treasure trove of information.

Yet the Foundation-Flatiron partnership is just one example of how health information technology companies are leveraging EHRs to accelerate research. Large numbers of health IT companies are emerging to develop diverse and powerful tools that make better use of available healthcare information, from drawing insights into treatment practices, to improving prescription practices, to understanding large populations of patients. We are at a point where the power of information is just beginning to be tapped, holding great promise for the future of medical development.

Although the Foundation-Flatiron structure will be anonymized and HIPAA-compliant, there is some concern that patients haven’t directly consented to participate. This is a point where Novaseek strongly differentiates. When we founded Novaseek, we put together a seasoned management team from both the life science research and hospital operations sides of the equation. Collectively, we have implemented clinical data programs in 600+ hospitals and launched 20+ life sciences products in the US. We understand the potential and challenges from a variety of perspectives.

Based on all of this experience, from the beginning we felt it was important to put patient consent front and center. We designed a process for patient consent and data-sharing authorizations in ways that are highly aligned to current hospital workflows.

The goal was to make it transparent and convenient for patients. We also wanted to make it easy and convenient for hospital personnel whose main focus is patient care. We designed Novaseek’s CDNR platform to interface with hospital data sources seamlessly and to scale easily.

Our consent process covers not only the patient’s medical history and prospective medical data but also the human biospecimens obtained via the regular course of patient care. This is convenient for patients, sustainable for the hospital, and provides researchers access to important longitudinal information, such as disease progression. It also allows researchers to have access to biospecimens and associated data at various points of the disease progression so that clinical phenotype can be matched to the underlying biology.

As our industry continues its path forward in leveraging technology to provide better care for patients, it’s important to streamline processes so that patients and healthcare providers can partake in research and medical advances. The results will advance the science, resulting in better treatments to patients sooner.

Aligning Drug Development to More Accurately Reflect the Real-World Patient

With the advance of precision medicine, ensuring that clinical studies more accurately reflect real-world patients needs to be at the heart of drug discovery and development. Historically, one of the reasons that so many studies fail is because patient cohorts are often not defined optimally for the treatment being investigated. Step one in changing this process is access to highly annotated and relevant biospecimens. The critical role of biospecimens was underscored when the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) announced by the White House in January 2015 was funded to include recruitment and follow-up of one million or more patients whose lifestyle, medical data and biospecimen samples will be collected for research.

For years even before PMI, the life sciences industry, academic institutions and the National Institutes of Health invested heavily in biospecimen resources through federal grants and contracts. In fact, the Collaborative Human Tissue Network, funded by the National Cancer Institute, brought together over 20 years more than 100 hospitals to make specimens available to researchers.

All of these steps have been instrumental in advancing science and the field of medicine. However, until now, up-to-date and relevant patient clinical data was the missing link between the biospecimens received by researchers and the practice of medicine in the real world. Biospecimens, whether procured through the Collaborative Human Tissue Network or even some private companies, generally include a pathology report and general demographic information, such as age, race, gender, surgical pathology and quality control diagnoses. What these samples don’t include, however, is the clinical history of the disease progression, co-morbidities that the patient might have or follow-up information.1

At the same time, PMI highlighted a broader call across the industry for increased participation in clinical trials. Clinical trials often experience delays, early termination or other impediments due to failure to meet recruitment goals.2 One reason participation historically has been low is that hospitals, with the exception of academic medical centers, and other healthcare settings frequently struggle to manage immense workloads and typically do not have human resources to support research despite interest in doing so. Many healthcare organizations find it challenging to incorporate research engagement alongside their core mission of providing patient care.

Novaseek aims to bridge the gap between patients (and their real-world clinical data), providers across a variety of healthcare settings and researchers. By automating critical parts of research and clinical studies, less effort is required to identify exactly the right patients who can participate and to collect their clinical data and biospecimens. Through our cloud-based Clinical Data Network for Research (CDNR) platform, we are helping researchers access real-world data reflective of patients who may benefit from the drugs in development.

CDNR connects researchers with highly annotated human biospecimens and clinical history and prospective longitudinal clinical data from consented patients, helping them to achieve more precise segmentation, identify patterns of greater efficacy and analyze a fuller spectrum of data, more reflective of real-world patients. We are transforming how researchers access and interact with clinical patient data and biospecimens, allowing for the assembly of cohorts of patients for tracking in a turn-key way for translational medicine, clinical feasibility and observational studies, positioning them for a greater probability of success and bringing them a step closer to getting better medicine to patients faster.