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International Clinical Trials

The Driving Force of Technology

Michael McGrath and Tom O’Leary of ICON investigate how the use of technology is evolving within clinical trials, with ideas fuelled by an industry roundtable discussion

A recent industry roundtable, hosted by ICON, reinforced the general industry view that the use of technology is one of the backbones of clinical research studies. Participants not only agreed that technology is becoming widely adopted in clinical trials, but that there are some very clear and distinct drivers fuelling this adoption.

One such factor is the drive for efficiency in the drug development process, which is improving the quality and speed of data collection, thereby achieving shorter time to market and lowering costs. In addition, because the pharmaceutical industry is international and organisations are multi-site and multi-country with truly global virtual teams, technology already plays a pivotal role in facilitating and speeding up both internal and external communication. Technology helps pharmaceutical companies share information faster and more efficiently, thereby generating higher quality data in a shorter timeframe while at the same time lowering development costs.

TRENDS IN TECHNOLOGY USE

Predicting how technology will evolve within clinical trials is difficult, but there remains a general agreement on the importance of portal technology. Web-based technology is becoming much more mainstream within data collection and data sharing applications. Consumers’ personal experience of websites and intranets has increased, meaning that many of us are now comfortable with this type of technology as an information source. This is one reason why it has been easier to bring these into use within clinical trials.

In addition, people are much more familiar with electronic documents, supporting the adoption of electronic data capture, electronic consent forms and even patient recruitment through websites. This global trend is set to increase, with various applications in clinical trials, including CROs use of portals to keep customers informed of ongoing trial information.

Collaborative web-based technology will provide a common framework for data to be shared across applications, enterprise and communities, and will enhance the transparency between sponsor and CRO, enabling them to work together more effectively.


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Michael McGrath is Global Vice President of Information Technology at ICON plc. He joined ICON in 2002, having previously held senior IT positions in the financial service industry with GE Capital and Woodchester Investments Ltd. Prior to this, he has worked as an IT Consultant and also as a Software Engineer. He has over 15 years’ experience in the IT industry across many areas including pharmaceuticals, financial services and utilities. He holds an MSc in IT Management and a BSc in Electronic Engineering.

Tom O’Leary, Global Head of Data Management, has worked with ICON Clinical Research, a Division of ICON plc since 2001. Tom has over 12 years’ industry experience, having worked in data management, project and resource management and process improvement. Prior to joining ICON, Tom worked at GSK. He was educated at Kingston Upon Thames University where he was awarded a BSc (with Honours) in Medicinal Chemistry. In 1998 Tom obtained his Masters in Data Management at Kingston Upon Thames University.

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Michael McGrath
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Tom O’Leary
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