Can you envision sensors on asthma inhalers sending data to doctors and researchers? When was the dose taken? How much? And what about biosensors giving feedback on the patient’s reaction to that medication?
Hoffmann-La Roche AG (Roche) is working to make this and other such revolutionary scenarios today’s reality. Roche, the world’s largest biotech company with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology, and neuroscience, follows where science leads and delivers medical solutions right now even as they tackle the world’s most formidable healthcare challenges and develop innovations for the future. Their chairman Christoph Franz states, “Curiosity and novelty in new ideas and to question the status quo is what sets Roche apart from others.”
Currently, 29 Roche medicines are on the “WHO (World Health Organization) essential medicine list.” Moreover, the company’s website states that 25M patients are treated with one of their top 25 selling medicines.
And yet, patients and doctors want more affordable lifesaving treatments and they want them sooner.
The Cost of Success
The primary objective of any pharmaceutical company is to deliver effective medicine to patients. This imperative starts by identifying new and innovative medicine—and ends when an idea from R&D earns approval and goes to market. In between those two events come a lot of studies and clinical trials designed and conducted to assess efficacy and safety to determine if a drug should be abandoned or pursued.
All this work can take as long as ten years and cost as much as $1 billion for just one drug—a drug that could be the difference between life and death for patients and a game changer for Roche and drug advancement. With so much at stake, Roche knows that the faster a failure or success can be identified, the better.
Vijay Reddi, Sr. Mgr. for Statistical Programming describes the imperative this way: “When you have a new medicine that comes from a discovery, you spend eight to ten years and you spend hundreds of millions of Euros developing that medicine and then the data that’s been collected just kind of sits there and it’s never touched again. In the future, we need to be a lot faster. Drugs need to be accessible to patients and using our clinical trial data and other medical data such as diagnostics, real world data, biomarker, and genetics data will help us to reduce the cost and bring the medicine to patients quicker."
On the GLIDE Path
At Roche, understanding science and data is a collaboration in which the IT team works with doctors, research and business teams. For them to deepen the understanding of the disease area and ultimately improve access for patients to the medicine, they collect and analyze medical and other data from a number of sources including trials, treatment, labs (blood, ECG, x-ray), genetics, insurance claims, and Real World Data (RWD) collected outside of a clinical trial.
The data resides in GLIDE (Global Integrated Drug Development Environment) where it is available to data scientists, data analysts, Roche IT professionals and business users such as RWD scientists or epidemiologists. Now they can combine data in new ways to conduct explorative analytics in a high performing environment and share results and data with other collaborators.
Going Where the Medicine Leads
Combining clinical trial and external data in GLIDE has led to vast improvements in analytics and real-time decisions. The impact also includes the likelihood that health and federal officials will authorize and accept Roche medicine, ultimately bringing it to the market and, most importantly, to the patient sooner. In one actual case, drug trials were accelerated by three years.
Moreover, it’s now possible to repurpose data to look at secondary uses that may allow new insights into an existing drug for a new indication. One example is a Roche medicine called Rituximab. Initially approved for cancer, it was later put into trial for rheumatoid arthritis when a doctor noticed it was reducing inflammation in a small group of patients.
Vijay Reddi says they still need to go a step further, “Now, we need to take that kind of observation and turn it into an algorithm to allow computers to go away and maybe look at data. And while looking at small groups of patients, for example, in South Korea to California to London, there’s actually a correlation here where we could use this medicine in a different area and then that would pop up and say to scientists, ‘Right, start investigating somewhere else.' That could lead to somewhere different for that medicine without investing lots of money and time.”
Roche calls this “blue sky thinking.” Can such a novel approach help to pick out the gems and improve medicine—and even save lives? Maybe!
This idea takes us right back to that opening scenario with the inhalers. Already Roche is looking to bring in additional data streams such as IoT sensor data to help eliminate the manual process of professionals recording patient actions. The way Vijay Reddi sees it, “Now we can get rid of all of that by giving the patient an inhaler with a biosensor that can record the number of puffs they take, how much they’ve taken of the drug, what drug they’re taking, date and timestamp as well, and we know that information is a hundred percent correct because it has come straight from that patient, that inhaler, so that information would then be sent off to a database.”
When put into practice real-time, automated processes can mean fewer errors plus less time and less money for more and better new medicines. Now that sounds like just what the doctor—and patients—ordered!
This article is based on this video available on Teradata.com.