Bioclinica boosts digital trial credentials with Saliency buy

With the ink barely dry on its last merger agreement, clinical trial and imaging specialist Bioclinica is on an expansive drive once again, buying digital clinical trial specialist Saliency.

Silicon Valley-based Saliency adds an artificial intelligence (AI) powered software platform that speeds up analysis of medical images and is used to support trials of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Just before the New Year, Bioclinica announced its merger with ERT, ramping up the digitisation of its clinical imaging platform with ERT’s expertise in electronic clinical outcome assessment, cardiac safety, respiratory and wearables.

That deal was directed squarely at improving endpoint data collection in clinical trials, and adding Saliency to the platform takes that effort up a gear.

According to Bioclinica, the AI technology will “dramatically accelerate [its] image processing and quality control capabilities to support a wide range of therapeutic areas”.

The last few years has already seen a big increase in the use of digital technologies to improve subject recruitment retention and access, boost engagement, harvest data and improve the blinding of controlled trials. That trend came even more to the fore in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic hit face-to-face clinical work.

Digital promises to improve the efficiency of trials, getting results more quickly whilst also reducing costs and – in theory at least – speeding up the time it takes to get new medicinal products approved and onto the market.

Saliency’s platform uses proprietary algorithms to build and train AI models from a small number of de-identified images. The models can be used to screen, redact, or interpret medical images and will be embedded in Bioclinica’s imaging tools.

“Clients rely on us for time-sensitive expert-level image interpretation for their clinical trials so they can focus on outcomes,” said Dan Gebow, chief innovation officer at Princeton, New Jersey-based Bioclinica.

“We evaluated a variety of medical imaging AI platforms and know the Saliency platform is head and shoulders above others in the market in its ability to deliver value for our clients.”

Saliency’s co-founders, Stanford researchers Kevin Thomas and Łukasz Kidziński, will join Bioclinica’s image science team.

The shift towards virtual clinical trials accelerated by the pandemic has also stimulated a flurry of M&A activity amongst technology providers in the last few months.

Last November, for example, digital trial specialist VirTrial was acquired by Signant Health, which provides clinical trial management systems (CTMS), while in the prior month clinical trial data company Medidata snapped up sensor maker MC10’s digital biomarker and wearables business.

ERT meanwhile bought wearable specialist APDM ahead of the merger with Bioclinica, while private equity firm GI Partners took a majority stake in Clinical Ink, which offers a platform for capturing and integrating electronic data from clinical sites.

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