AZ launches digital clinical trials business

AstraZeneca's Cristina Duran

Cristina Durán, president of Evinova

AstraZeneca has launched a separate business unit that will take what the drugmaker has learned from running digitally-powered clinical trials and offer that experience to other sponsors.

Called Evinova, the new unit has emerged with alliances already in place with contract research organisations Parexel and Fortrea, which will help to promote its digital health products and services to their customers.

The business revolves around the Evinova drug development suite, a digital suite that covers the design and planning of new clinical trials, drawing on artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the collection of study data in a number of ways, including through the use of connected medical devices and wearable sensors.

It can be used to run traditional, decentralised, and hybrid trials, supports virtual consultations, remote patient monitoring, biological sample tracking, and medicines delivery, and features a top-down view of ongoing trials for management, reporting, and governance purposes.

The suite is already being used by AZ to deliver clinical trials in 40 countries and, according to the company, can reduce the time and cost of developing new medicines, bring care closer to home for patients, and reduce the burden on health systems.

Eventually, Evinova intends to branch out to develop its own digital remote patient monitoring and digital therapeutics (DTx) technologies, said AZ.

“The future of medicine development can be accelerated with digital solutions,” remarked Pascal Soriot, AZ’s chief executive. “We believe Evinova’s combination of scientific expertise and track record in developing AI-enabled digital technologies at scale, provides a real opportunity to fundamentally improve patient care, drive healthcare transformation, and reduce carbon emissions.”

Cristina Durán, AZ’s chief digital health officer, R&D, and formerly a senior management consultant at Accenture, has been named president of Evinova, which is also working with Accenture and Amazon Web Services to deliver its platform.

She said the launch of the business will “help propel the [life sciences] sector forwards in digital health, as we know healthcare professionals and regulators need digital solutions that work across pharma and support patients broadly.”

Duran was the lead author of a recently published paper in the journal Nature Medicine that found that the use of digital health technology in clinical trials can improve the patient experience, with accelerated timelines and reduced costs.

“Coming from within the sector and with proven experience, Evinova will be uniquely placed to deliver science-based, evidence-led, and human experience-driven solutions with the aim of improving patient experience and outcomes,” she said.

Based on 2018 healthcare spend information, McKinsey estimates that digital health interventions alone have the potential to save the US healthcare system alone nearly $500 billion if fully adopted.