Normally held throughout the year in various cities, because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic the Medidata NEXT conference was held globally and virtually this year.

Unsurprisingly, the life science vendor’s three-day conference hinged around the challenging year the world has faced because of the viral pandemic and what how the learnings and responses from the pandemic can be used positively in the future.

Medidata co-founder and co-CEO Tarek Sherif kicked off the conference by stating: “It has certainly been an interesting and challenging year. It has highlighted the mission that we have always had around developing great technologies that will impact society and patients.”

Sherif added that the pandemic has demonstrated the industry’s ability to step up and innovate quickly, and how pleased Medidata is to have contributed to that.

Medidata and the pandemic

Both Sherif and his co-founder and CEO Glen de Vries noted at the conference how proud they are of Medidata’s actions to support customers and patients during the pandemic. Medidata is committed to patient-centricity and putting patients first in everything they do. Therefore, in the words of de Vries, “we can work together to make lives longer and better for everyone”.

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During the pandemic, Medidata launched a patient portal called myMedidata, which helps patients participate in studies run on the company’s Rave platform and relies on patient cloud tools. One part of myMedidata is a Covid-19 symptom tracker, which allows patients in active studies supported by Medidata to also participate in Covid-19 research around demographics, as well as glean insights about the pandemic’s impact on clinical trials.

Medidata has been working to facilitate the virtualising of clinical trials over many years; this has been a major topic of its previous NEXT conferences. But with the pandemic, the focus has been even more so on bringing patient-centricity and virtualisation together. To this end, during the first day keynote, senior vice-president of mobile health Anthony Costello announced another capacity being built into the patient portal: myMedidata LIVE. This enables video visits for patients who are unable to attend sites. It has been built into Rave and is designed to work alongside patient portal tools and any devices.

Exploring a post-pandemic future for life sciences

Looking to the future and how the lessons from the pandemic can be learned, de Vries said virtualisation of clinical trials is something that needs to continue.

Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), agreed in his closing keynote, arguing that that we should not “snap back to the old ways of doing things”. Gottlieb added that virtualisation and decentralisation of clinical trials may help to democratise them and make them more accessible; historically trials have struggled to recruit diverse populations.

In the first day keynote, de Vries explained that there is now a need, in post-pandemic healthcare, to think about a Venn diagram of care where drugs exist in one circle, devices in another and digital as the third. When a patient is no longer in the room with a physician, those three circles come together as you pair a molecular therapy with remote monitoring or video visits, de Vries said.

In turn, this intersection will also allow Medidata’s customers to connect the dots of different, normally siloed data sets. The company is committed to bringing together different types of data, particularly real-world data, clinical trial data digital health data from wearables and genomics data.

This will allow Medidata to have a life-long relationship with patients and ensure they remain engaged with clinical research beyond one trial, according to Costello. In turn, this capacity will also improve drug development and trial design in the future.

Connecting the data dots is something that Medidata is working on closely with its parent company Dassault Systèmes by sharing their different, but complementary capacities. Medidata has access to vast amounts of data – around 30 terabytes of raw data are found in the company’s platforms right now, according to de Vries. Dassault Systèmes, meanwhile, has capacities to look at drug discovery and repurposing, according to vice-president of field applications John McCarthy.

Dassault Systèmes vice-president of life sciences Claire Biot notes it has been proven that better understanding of the disease and modelling are key for successful drug development. It is time to close the data loop and feed insights back into research and development, she said.

In addition, Medidata has just expanded its suite of data collection tools with the acquisition of MC10. This deal will enable customers to leverage wearable sensor data from virtualised clinical trials.