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Observations at Dpharm 2018
Alex Wylie our Strategic Change Analyst reviews Dpharm

Although it may have been the 8th Annual DPharm conference, it was the first time that I had attended the conference myself. With my set of responsibilities at MRN (service/product development), I find these conferences very interesting. Although we were exhibiting and speaking as a vendor, my responsibilities focus on looking at how we can improve our services and how we can look to integrate these with other services moving forwards.

As I walk around these conferences and listen to the various presentations, I get the feeling I am getting a glimpse of each company’s vision for clinical trials moving forward. Doing this at the DPharm conference this year I was struck by one main observation, that the industry keeps trying to separate out technology and service delivery and look at them individually.

I noticed this theme in a variety of places around the conference. The first being the title, set up and tracks of the conference itself; with DPharm being dedicated to all things digital, data science, patient data access & ownership, services and new approaches to optimize clinical trial systems. It was clearly trying to focus on the technology side but with the inclusion of ‘services’ within this list, it shows this is very difficult to achieve without losing an important part of the puzzle.

I also felt that this was further demonstrated with the inclusions of topics such as ‘Clinical Research as a Care Option (CRAACO)’, ‘How to Disrupt drug development with a service-oriented culture’ and the very broad ‘a wide variety of Technologies and Services with Innovations to Advance Clinical Research’.

At a more granular level, I observed this in the disjointed nature of the ‘Innovative Sources and Solutions’ track. Here we had a series of home trial support providers, such as MRN, talking about the service they deliver to the patient mixed in with companies focusing on EMR data searches in the case of Optum, or AI enabled analytics through Saama technologies.

So, at this point I guess the important question to ask is who cares? Or more politely put, why might this be important?

I think we would generally agree that the rate of adoption within the clinical trial industry is slow comparative to other industries, but if we are separating out technology and service delivery are we reducing this rate further? You may be able to take this logic a step further and ask if I slow down the adoption of what might be considered a disruptive innovation, when does it become a sustaining innovation rather than disruptive?

From my understanding, a disruptive product is one that creates a new market for itself (i.e. the product is substantially differentiated from the alternatives, therefore it is most appropriate to consider it a new market), that then disrupts or replaces an existing market. This disruption would lead to the existing market needing to adapt around the new market that has formed or fail.

This leaves me with a series of questions, rather than answers:

Which market are we disrupting? Or potentially put another way, who should be synthesising all the contributing innovations into a new clinical trial design and operation?

Is this the role of the pharma companies, the CROs or the high number of innovative vendors, either service or technology?

If this is being synthesised outside of the innovative vendors, or with them on an individual basis, are you potentially stifling innovation within the industry by separating the innovative groups?

If this is only being synthesised by the incumbents of the current market, does this mean that we are only able to disrupt the market after the incumbent market has adapted to accept a new innovation?

Posted by:
Toby Heath
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