Novartis, U.S. partner plan remote trials to boost participation

FILE PHOTO: Swiss drugmaker Novartis' logo is seen at the company's plant in the northern Swiss town of Stein, Switzerland October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

ZURICH (Reuters) - Novartis plans up to 10 clinical trials over three years using a U.S. partner’s mobile technology to help free patients from burdensome hospital trips as the Swiss drugmaker aims to boost study participation and cut costs.

Novartis said on Wednesday it would work with Science 37, a California-based company that provides technology including smart phone apps to patients, allowing video-based telemedicine visits rather than always requiring physical travel to clinics.

Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan, who took over the Basel-based company on Feb. 1, has outlined plans to deploy more technology and leverage data to trim costs amid broad industry concern over sluggish returns on research and development investment. []

Science 37’s “remote trial” technology may also help remedy limitations on recruiting participants, Novartis said, citing estimates that only 2 percent of the eligible U.S. population now joins studies due to access hurdles.

“Novartis aims to run studies in ways that overcome many of the barriers patients face when deciding whether or not to enroll in clinical trials, like long journeys or extensive time spent at hospitals or trial sites,” said Rob Kowalski, Novartis’s interim drug development chief.

Novartis owns 10 percent of Science 37 after participating last April in a $29 million financing round with others including Sanofi and Amgen. Further investors in Science 37, founded by Noah Craft and Belinda Tan in 2014, include Google’s GV venture firm.

Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields