Daniel Ramirez, VP of technology, search and partnering at Leo Pharma, discusses his upcoming presentation at Outsourcing in Clinical Trials West Coast on February 24th and 25th, and explains what digitalization can do for small start-ups in the clinical trials industry looking to remove some of the barriers that traditional pathways face.

Ramirez admits his background is atypical for the industry. Leo Pharma, a global, dermatology-focused pharmaceutical company, created Leo Innovation Lab five years ago- an initiative to create and invest in digital health companies.

“We created several start-ups in the iLab, developing the capacity to reach out directly to patients through digital apps (which is not common in pharma). We decided to use these capabilities to recruit- and it worked. That was the birth of Studies & Me,” says Ramirez.

The company has since used the technology to recruit for its own trials, trials that CROs were experiencing difficulty with, as well as trials for other dermatology companies. “Basically, by using digital channels and methodologies we are speeding up the recruitment process substantially.”

Compatibility with virtualization

Some therapies are more compatible with virtualization than others. Dermatology is not the same, for example, as a trial for oncology. Its visual nature makes it easier to achieve PROs (Patient Reported Outcomes) remotely. There is also a low appetite for risk and the lack of data that companies have yet established to show that their own PROs can be captured remotely.

Ramirez says that Covid-19 has seen several different factors align recently. “People are isolated and therefore open to trying more virtual solutions. At the same time, Covid itself has delayed several trials, so this made sponsors more inclined to try remote models. And regulators too have been more aware of the need to allow remote technology in trials.”

Looking ahead to OCT West

When asked what he was looking forward to in OCT West, Ramirez mentioned the networking, the learning opportunities, and ability to help others. “Here in Silicon Valley, you try to make intros or help out in some way when people knock on your door- that’s what people do when I knock on their door. It’s a good way to interact with the professional world, as well as the personal one.”

Trends in outpatient clinical trials for 2021

One of the biggest topics that will be discussed at the conference is what trends are on the horizon for 2021. Ramirez predicts these will include more investments, more pilots of remote technologies among sponsors and CROs, and as a consequence, more business for companies that have remote technologies in their core value proposition.

Speaking about the event, he focuses on the smaller companies and start-ups as well as the patients. “When you are a young company, you have very tight deadlines, and very tight budgets. So any help that you can give to small companies to advance them in the process is good for them, and good for patients ultimately,” he says. “And that’s part of what we are doing.”

Daniel Ramirez* will be discussing the move towards virtualization, debating the concept of the hybrid model and exploring the tools that are out there, in a virtual event that brings pharma, biotech and CROs from the West Coast together February 24th and 25th. Interested? Register here

* Daniel Ramirez spoke to Clinical Trials Arena on his own behalf for this interview. His statements are not meant to represent the viewpoints of Leo Pharma or Leo Innovation Lab.