Improving Clinical Trials and Real-World Evidence, an interview with Julien Meinrad

The globe has always been plagued by illnesses and infections, and there is always an ever-rising demand for breakthroughs in the medical sector. There is also a high demand for new treatments for cancer and other illnesses, but these researches and treatments cannot be approved without clinical trials. Clinical trials help to hasten up the research process and determine if new treatments are safe for human applications so that the treatment can get out there in the market and make an impact on the world. But it has always been difficult getting the right candidate for clinical trials and that is exactly where Julien and the company Clinerion come in.

Julien Meinrad is a marketing professional who has great experience in the healthcare and pharma field. He is a French National who studied in Florida and has a large range of work experiences in London, Strasbourg, and Basel. He credits much of his experience to the various environments he has worked in and the multicultural teams he met along the way. They helped him adapt very rapidly to new colleagues and new projects.

He started his career as a digital marketer working in various fields (banking, automotive, mobile apps). He later realized that the ‘healthcare’ topic was way more thought-provoking and meaningful than others when he got his first job at a web agency whose main customer was Novartis. Between 2016 and 2019 Julien worked for DIA, a member-based, non-for-profit association gathering all healthcare stakeholders’ at large events around the world. There he got to meet stakeholders from all fields of healthcare and the role enabled him to gain a better understanding of many aspects of drug development, from early pre-clinical development through to commercialization. He already knew it was extremely long and extremely costly to get a new treatment on the market, but he also started to better understand the reasons why, and this stimulated his thinking about “how” things could improve in the future.

Julien joined Clinerion less than two years ago. Clinerion is a healthcare company that uses data and technology to bring a wealth of live, real-world patient data from a network of more than 160 hospitals, in 21 countries, representing more than 30 million e-health records. Their platform, Patient Network Explorer, enables the instant querying of this data, globally. Clinerion’s patented technology, called ANID, ensures that patient data is always anonymized. Julien believes that Clinerion has an awesome and powerful tool to help accelerate clinical research which deserves to be more visible. He believes it is good to support and enable their marketing efforts.

Clinerion offers several solutions that are articulated around 2 major axes:

1. Clinical Trials

2. Real-World Data

1. Clinical Trials Solutions: the data which can be queried in real-time via their tool can be used by pharma companies to find patients for their clinical trials quickly and easily – like a matchmaker. Users can find eligible patients using criteria like age, geography, diagnoses, laboratory test results, prescribed medication, and past procedures.  Their technology is also used by hospitals to attract more clinical trials to their site, as hospitals can be instantly found by trial sponsors when they have eligible patients for a given clinical trial. In addition to gaining visibility, hospitals use our tool to be able to run academic research more efficiently and rapidly.

2. Real-World Data Solutions: For real-world evidence (RWE), Clinerion’s technology offers access to real-world data (RWD) queried directly from the anonymized, aggregated electronic health records (EHRs) of millions of patients around the world via Clinerion’s network of partner hospitals. It applies intelligent, patented informatics methodologies to extract and interpret information from large amounts of EHRs. Access to this data allows detailed data analysis of patient journeys and outcomes for health economics and outcomes research (HEOR).

Their customers are mainly Top Pharma companies and also CROs and institutions dedicated to research such as hospitals and universities.

Julien believes that Clinerion has a lot to bring to the pharmaceutical world by accelerating patient recruitment through their clinical trial solutions and also increase data access through their RWD solutions.

What makes Clinerion unique is their network, their technology, and their team. In terms of their network, they work with partners and hospitals around the globe, with a strong focus on emerging countries (Brazil, Turkey, India just to name a few) or Central European countries like Serbia, where patients are often under-represented in today’s clinical trials. Many of their hospital partners collaborate with them because of their advanced technology for anonymized, federated data sharing. Thanks to this unique footprint, their customers can find patient data and real-world insights that they will not find anywhere else. This is also part of what makes them unique.

The COVID 19 pandemic had a lot of impact on clinical trials. Many trials were postponed and some others were even canceled. It was more difficult than ever for hospitals to recruit new patients. Hospitals had to review their priorities and had to focus more on managing COVID-19 consequences, and this ultimately affected research as a whole. There are travel restrictions and a lot of patients are worried about interacting face-to-face with healthcare professionals at the hospital, and this has also contributed to making things more complex for investigators.

Some of Clinerion’s customers put projects on hold. COVID-19 “froze” many trials and clinical research as everything needed to be rearranged. However, not all trials were canceled or postponed. Many stakeholders have shown quick and efficient responses to keep the studies in the rails, whenever they could do so. COVID-19 has pushed the industry and hospitals to question their common boundaries and consider new methodologies to conduct their clinical trials. Virtual trials – meaning, trials where some or all of the patients take part in the study from home, using telemedicine, wearables, sensors, etc. – are one of them, but they also considered new partners and providers to work with or new options that were under-represented.

Finally, the outbreak crisis also had an indirect impact on non-COVID-19 patients, as many patients lost access to trials – due to trials being canceled or being postponed – that would have changed their clinical outcomes. It is challenging to find data or studies on this yet, probably because it’s still too early, but it would be interesting to analyze these “collateral” consequences, too.

Julien in his opinion believes that things will “almost” get back to the way they were before, or very similar to the isolation and social distancing constraints gradually disappear – if COVID-19 figures keep decreasing. He believes that the only difference to be seen is that COVID 19 might have led digital transformation for many companies that realize that a lot can be achieved from a distance and pushes them to incorporate more “digital” and more “virtual” activities to their trials, even without the threat of COVID-19. In this way, COVID-19 was a way to ‘force’ trial managers to try different methods that they had not considered until now due to a lack of time or trust. He went on to invite us to have a look at his colleague’s Douglas Drake’s article on the matter.

The future of clinical trials also looks bright as it will become more and more integrated and patient-centric, while incorporating more and more innovative technologies such as AI, machine learning and cloud computing (e.g. to find patients faster), decentralized trials, with patient-facing technologies, remote devices and powerful new software.

This is what they support with their efforts at Clinerion.

“Using data to reduce trial time and costs bring real-world evidence to advance research, and successfully bring new treatments, faster, to the Market.”

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