As published in Clinical Trials Arena
The adoption of sophisticated software practices has the potential to spur some powerful innovations in clinical trials, making trials quicker and easier to set up while ensuring a smooth digital experience for patients.
We have seen how advanced software platforms empower companies across many sectors to develop personalised applications that deliver seamless customer experiences. The drag-and-drop tools used in solutions like Salesforce, for example, enable processes to be automated and applications to be built or customised, with ease.
Elsewhere, we have witnessed software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service and even infrastructure-as-a-service come together in the cloud to help organisations scale their technology as needed. The extraordinary success of Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is used to power many thousands of businesses, has shown the strength of these platforms. Now, forward-thinking clinical technology providers are seeing an opportunity to apply these back-end approaches to advance software in the healthcare industry.
E.K Koh is Chief Product Officer at Suvoda, a global clinical trial technology company that specialises in complex studies in therapeutic areas such as oncology, central nervous system (CNS), and rare disease. Throughout his decades-long career, Koh has successfully created disruptive, yet pragmatic solutions for companies like Experian, LiveRamp and Optymyze. Turning his talents to clinical trials in 2021, Koh hopes to blend deep eClinical expertise of the Suvoda team with the more advanced software approaches already seen as best practice in other sectors to deliver solutions that better arm sponsors and CROs with the tools they need to manage the increasing complexity in clinical trials. Recognising the factors that have hindered the clinical trials industry’s adoption of cloud-based, low code/no-code platforms, Koh believes there is significant common ground between the needs of the clinical and non-clinical industries. “All customers want software that is easy to integrate, that is very flexible so they can do what they want, and they want the option to access the latest upgrades and updates,” he explains.
In 2022, Andrew McVeigh joined Suvoda as Chief Architect after holding technical leadership positions at Hulu, LiveRamp, Amazon, and RiotGames. While being struck by the sophisticated architecture behind Suvoda’s well-known Interactive Response Technology (IRT) solution, McVeigh shares Koh’s vision to progress the technology by incorporating elements of revolutionary software platforms used across other industries, while tapping into the wealth of clinical trial knowledge on the Suvoda team.
“We have a powerful product suite centered around our proven IRT technology,” says McVeigh. “The challenge before us was how do we evolve it to support an ecosystem of products that efficiently manages and establishes a cohesive patient journey? In essence, it’s about finding the sweet spot between supporting the extreme customisation necessary to support even the most complex trial protocols, yet also having a common platform that enables automation and standardisation.”
Over the past year, Koh and McVeigh have been tackling this interesting technical challenge together with their teams. “What Andrew succeeded in doing is defining a platform that allows not only customisation but also the benefits of SaaS,” remarks Koh.
The unique platform features a set of low code tools that will enable Suvoda to meet sponsors’ needs for increased customisation more easily and is able to be upgraded at any point during a trial without any disruption to the protocol. At the same time, Suvoda has built a large API surface on top of the platform architecture that will simplify integrations with other eClinical systems.
Prominent SaaS systems were a huge inspiration, McVeigh says, but the technical challenge presented by the drug development world came with different demands. Every clinical trial is unique and the type that Suvoda specialises in can be very complex, often involving multiple cohorts and geographies. When a complex trial design is the best or only way to bring a new drug to market, the software must be able to keep up.
“Our systems need to be more configurable, more customisable, more extensible than most,” explains McVeigh. “With a PhD in computer science, specifically focused on extensibility, this has been an incredibly interesting journey, personally and professionally, to explore how we get to that next level of extensibility in this very unique market.”
The team is well aware of Suvoda’s long-standing reputation for having developed what McVeigh calls “the Ferrari of IRT systems”. The highly adaptive technical architecture and the service team’s responsiveness to the requirements and challenges of customers has resulted in impressive net promoter and customer satisfaction scores–well above industry averages. As the team embarked on this new technical strategy, it was critical that the flexibility of the software be further built upon rather than limited or jeopardised.
A bright future
Looking into the future, discussions are underway about whether Suvoda’s next-generation platform could be opened up to the wider ecosystem. “There are a lot of great examples, like Salesforce, where they have shown that opening up the platform can create a very vibrant ecosystem,” notes Koh. “I think the clinical trial industry can certainly benefit from the same kind of dynamic.”
Suvoda’s vision is to improve the patient’s digital journey. Enabling customers and even other parties to build their own innovations on the platform is in the patient’s best interest. “At the right point in time, we will consider opening up the APIs to the industry to enable them to help us build and complete that digital patient journey,” Koh states.
Ever since releasing the first generation of its IRT solution in 2013, Suvoda has been a leader in innovative, flexible clinical trial technology that is designed for the user. As its offering continues to expand through the introduction of eConsent and now eCOA, this pragmatic, yet innovative technical strategy led by Koh and McVeigh will ensure the company continues to bring thoughtful solutions to market that are designed to solve real challenges today and empower sponsors and CROs to be ready for whatever comes next.
Learn more about what Suvoda can do for your next clinical trial.