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The Increasing Clout of the Clinical Research Network


With members like Pfizer and USC Keck School of Medicine, TriNetX aims to improve how healthcare handles research data.

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Photo has been cropped and resized. Courtesy of TriNetX.

One by one, the prestigious healthcare organizations signed on, representing pharma, medicine, and beyond. They had inked membership deals with TriNetX, a global health research network launched in 2013, to crack open untapped but invaluable troves of data. Its newest affiliate, Pfizer, announced its involvement yesterday, joining fellow pharma giants Novartis and Sanofi and any number of high-tech therapeutic start-ups and blue-chip health systems, from Weill Cornell Medicine to the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.

The hope was—and remains—ambitious: to revolutionize clinical trials, in the name of pushing new therapies to patients more quickly.

Rooted in Cambridge, Massachusetts, TriNetX links healthcare providers, pharma companies, and contract research groups under the banner of better trial designs, quicker recruitments, and collaboration. The research network aspires to do this by building “the industry’s most comprehensive data set for cohort analysis and site selection,” a navigable, adaptive collection of information plucked from electronic medical records (EMRs). The data set includes demographics, diagnoses, procedures, medications, lab reports, genomic information, oncology insights, discharge summaries, radiology and pathology reports, and more, according to TriNetX.

>> Read: The Democratization of Data Analytics

The key for TriNetX is its sprawling set of real-world data, spanning, as of this writing, more than 100 million patients. The organization has refined its technologies to allow more health systems to contribute information on patient populations, simultaneously arming members with more analytical and organizational firepower.

“Pfizer joined TriNetX to harness real-world data for clinical trial optimization, with the goal of accelerating our ability to bring new therapies to market,” said Mohanish Anand, PhD, who leads the company’s efforts to improve its studies. Pfizer is interested, in particular, in leveraging real-time clinical, genomic, and oncological data to better design trials. “For example,” Anand added, “we hope to reduce avoidable amendments by identifying and correcting overly restrictive inclusion and exclusion criteria early in the design process.”

For some time now, key opinion leaders have called for a stronger commitment to data sharing in healthcare, for clinical trials and much more. Various public and academic research consortiums have already formed and advanced medical research. Some investigators—so-called “data parasites”—have built careers on reanalyzing open, de-identified data sets. TriNetX has tapped into the same idea: that coming together in this way will benefit individual healthcare players—like pharma and its bottom line—and the system as a whole.

Other corners of healthcare, meanwhile, remain largely cut off from openly exchanging data, sometimes to such a degree that different departments in the same hospital fail to achieve interoperability. EMR vendors and other software start-ups have tried to solve the problem, but nearly everyone acknowledges that not enough progress has been made in these arenas.

So, what have academic medical centers seen in TriNetX? Simply put, solutions, for their research needs and their patients.

“Infusing a data-driven approach into the conversation between research institutions and industry provides great efficiencies, but most importantly, it gives our patients the opportunity to potentially participate in clinical trials they otherwise wouldn’t be aware of,” noted Piotr Sliz, PhD, chief research information officer for Boston Children’s Hospital, which joined the network in February.

TriNetX maintains a cloud-based platform that enables researchers to scrutinize specific patient populations. They can undertake “what-if” analyses with the click of a button, scanning aggregate views. On the other hand, members may locate the origin of each data point to certain health systems, who know which patients generated the information. That means pharma can develop “virtual patient cohorts” for trials, according to TriNetX.

“Our members are liberating data that [are] trapped within disparate databases all around the world,” said the network’s CEO, Gadi Lachman, MBA, when unveiling Pfizer’s membership. “And through our platform, we’re able to provide researchers with access to rich, longitudinal, and harmonized data.”

Roughly once per month over the past few years, Lachman’s group has trumpeted the names of new respected members to join TriNetX. Although the network is not the only one to ignite more widespread data sharing, today’s addition of a mover and shaker like Pfizer suggests TriNetX is certainly becoming a force in this region of the open data revolution.

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