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A look into the hyper-acceleration of life sciences with Sean Vassilaros

Cassidi Williams

If we've learned anything from the hyper-acceleration of life sciences during the pandemic, it's that we need to keep ramping up the efforts in which we can get treatments to market as we move beyond 'the pandemic year'. In the past, it’s always been a painfully slow process and, Dr. Eric Topol, in the article released by WSJ, 'The Pandemic Year: The Hyper-Acceleration of the Life Sciences' noted that the average time it takes in the life sciences for translating research into clinical practices is 17 years. We've seen the ability of that timeline being cut to one year, specifically with COVID-19, in a time when everyone had to put their heads together to get a vaccine to the public.

Both Sean Vassilaros, COO of THREAD, and Dr. Topol mentioned that it's important to note that these approaches are not new, and they've been around for a long time, they just needed to be modified and adapted to this particular strain. They also had the agency reviews expedited and had everyone in the world giving them support, financially and logistically. It’s with our previous knowledge and abilities that we can translate that to a quicker solution in the future – and there are certain approaches that we know can help with the ability to speed up processes.

We are obviously concerned about the safety and efficacy of clinical research, but we also want to make sure we are going down the right path when it comes to the goal of life sciences: taking care of the patient. In fact, the phrase, ‘appropriate-effort’ is used by Vassilaros to discuss the matter when asked how he believed this process was able to be expedited. "We just learned in the last year, that if you use appropriate-effort to bring something to production, you're allowed to move at lightning speed." He continued by saying "I am a huge fan of taking what we just found and saw over the last year and applying it to all other treatments. We have a lot of treatments where the sponsors are in multiple phases of trials that are taking way longer than needed and causing patients to suffer. So, anything we can do to fast-track that and speed this up is better."

We know that people are ready for this; they have learned and adapted to do things remotely and have embraced this new and efficient way of doing regular things. Having access to those who want to help but don’t want to leave their home opens the door within patient recruitment and provides room to increase patient diversity within trials and grants a solution for many studies who struggle to maintain patient retention.

In the article by Dr. Topol he states, “now that we know what is achievable, much of this experience could potentially be used to expedite the translation of other post-pandemic research into medical care.” It leaves us with the question, how can we keep this pace moving forward?

One of the worries for Vassilaros is that as the pandemic restrictions lift, studies and study teams will try to go back to the way they were conducting studies before. “That would be a mistake, as we want to ultimately make sure that whatever we have learned now, we continue to embrace and improve upon it.”

He continued by saying, “we are working with our customers, industry leaders and agencies to make sure that best practices are put in place, and we are focused on building a foundation that is sustainable and providing appropriate education and training to everyone involved: all the stakeholders, sponsors, site teams and ultimately site participants, so they are comfortable and ready to keep continuing down this path.”

When the pandemic first hit, the industry was interested in producing decentralized strategies to make sure the studies they were currently doing would be able to continue as they had been. That's when THREAD introduced the THREAD Express model which helped save and rescue ongoing studies by spinning up solutions for Consent/eConsent, telehealth and source upload to keep them collecting data, to help bring that treatment to market.

What we’ve gathered is that the best way to keep this pace of expediting clinical trials is to keep looking at the insights from patients, study sites and sponsors to see in a measured and methodical way, what approaches are being adapted to and making clinical research better.