Castor gifts access to data platform for non-profit Covid-19 research

Health tech company Castor has said it will provide free access to its electronic data capture (EDC) systems to researchers working on the new coronavirus at non-profit institutions.

The Dutch start-up says it has created ready-to-use electronic Case Report Forms (eCRFs) – based on World Health Organization standards, that can “help researchers start their study or registry in less than an hour.” It is also providing hosting for data.

Its EDC platform helps researchers collaborate with colleagues, invite patients through questionnaires, and import, export and analyse data on a secure cloud platform.

The company’s founder and chief executive Derk Arts said that the company has a “moral obligation” to help tackle the Covid-19 outbreak, which at last count had reached more than 71,000 cases worldwide, with around 1,800 deaths, according to WHO figures.

A new analysis of 44,000 cases in China has revealed that more than 20% of cases are mild, but also that the highest death rate – nearly 15% – is among the 80-plus age bracket. The findings put the overall death rate of the virus at 2.3%.

“When novel strains of viruses like the coronavirus emerge, data quickly becomes our most valuable asset,” he added.

“We can help drive access to standardised data in real-time, enable the use of [artificial intelligence] across standardised datasets, and accelerate the discovery of evidence that can help stop the coronavirus in its tracks.”

The WHO has provided technical guidance on the conduct of coronavirus studies, and that has highlighted the need to assemble large amounts of accurate and usable data quickly.

Last week, the international agency set a number of priorities for Covid-19 research. These included discovering the natural history of the virus, its transmission and diagnosis, determining its origins and working out how to stop animal to human transmission, as well as developing new therapeutics and vaccines.

“A standardised approach in collecting clinical data is critical in order to better understand the natural history of disease and describe clinical phenotypes and treatment interventions,” commented Arts.

“For a global data collection effort to be truly successful, we need to go beyond standardised forms. The threshold for capturing these datasets should be as low as possible, to ensure anyone is willing and able to contribute valuable data,” he added.

Castor’s EDC system was first created in 2012 and according to the company has been used for 130 million data points from 1.4 million patients enrolled in studies.

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