Collaboration across sectors in healthcare will be key to saving lives and improving outcomes for patients, according to speakers at this year’s National Health Research Forum: “Straight Talk: New Thinking on Persistent Challenges.”
The annual event is organized by Research!America, which is celebrating its 30th year of convening healthcare researchers, policymakers and practitioners to discuss key issues facing the industry. Elsevier was one of the sponsors, along with AAMC, AdvaMed, BD, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, PCORI, Regeneron, Sanofi and Takeda.
Richard Loomis, MD, Chief Informatics Officer for Elsevier’s Clinical Solutions, joined a panel exploring the evolving roles of cross-sector partnerships as a catalyst to lifesaving progress. He talked about Elsevier’s evolving role and what it meant for supporting research.
“Our role in facilitating research has historically been in publishing,” Dr. Loomis told the audience. “We have transformed into an information and analytics company, so how do we leverage our underlying literature and evidence-based content to deliver insights and inform better decision-making in science and healthcare delivery?”
The answer lies in partnerships with organizations across the industry, he said.
“We have a long tradition of partnering with many stakeholders across multiple sectors – academic medical centers and research institutions, government organizations and so forth,” he said.
Christopher P. Austin, MD, Director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), part of the National Institutes of Health, also concurred with the other panelists about the importance of partnerships to translational science.
“NCATS has a mission to innovate on every step of the translational process, from target validation to public health, and make those steps happen better, faster, cheaper,” Dr, Austin said. “We always look for 10-fold improvements in everything we do because that's the scope of the problem. One of our principal tenets is that translation (of science into practice) is a team sport. Every project NCATS does is a collaboration.”
Dr. Loomis pointed to a new collaboration between Elsevier and NCATS. Elsevier will become one of the first commercial companies to take NCATS’ genetic and rare disease database and use it as part of into a new product that will support physicians in making diagnoses.
“The big opportunity we have right now is to really establish a convening strategy to get everyone to join us as we bring drugs to market fort the first time,” she said. “We are right now embarking on what I would say is our largest public-private partnership to innovate care so that all of those patient can get access to those drugs.”
Panelist Gopal Khanna, Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), agreed with Vos and added another element to the partnerships conversation: partners need to challenge each other.
“A large part of our culture is centered around partnerships,” he said. “We need to make sure our work gets to the patient. What we are doing at AHRQ now is saying that we need to encourage delivery systems to come and tell us what are their pain points and challenges and unmet needs so that we can go out to the research community and work to get them solved.”
Rick A. Bright, PhD, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said partnering with private industry to capture and help disseminate new, lifesaving therapies is his organization’s mission.
“Many of these lifesaving drugs and medicines don't have a large marketplace,” he said. “Imagine a group within government whose role is to be like a pharmaceutical or biotech company, with all the expertise, so we can partner to achieve success (and) reduce the timelines for development and availability of drugs and vaccines and diagnostics and other lifesaving tools.”
Since its formation, BARDA has developed more than 250 public-private partnerships that have yielded 48 different new drugs and diagnostics approved by the US Federal Drug Administration.
Dr. Loomis mentioned another example of the strength of partnerships: clinical trial participation. Elsevier’s Via Oncology, a clinical decision support tool for cancer clinics, has a feature that helps oncologists identify patients appropriate for local clinical trials and enroll them, as part of the clinical workflow.
“We’re conducting a multi-site study,” Dr. Loomis said. “Early data suggests that we’re seeing a 2-3x increase in clinical trial recruiting rates across some the largest cancer centers in the US (with Via Oncology). We're very encouraged by what we're seeing and look to expand this work in the future.“
Panelist Melinda Richter, Global Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JLABS), said her organization believes that the best science and technology should come from the best solutions for patients all over the world.
“We also have to be humble enough to say the best science and technology is just as likely to come from outside the walls of a big company like J&J as inside,” she said.
Dr. Loomis concurred. “We believe we'll be able to do (what Elsevier does) faster and better with the help of others,” he said. “We must increasingly get closer to the end-user and the patient in all of this.”