ClinEco Helps Trial Stakeholders ‘Cut Through The Noise’ To Find One Another
By Deborah Borfitz
December 20, 2022 | The world’s first B2B market network for clinical trials is now fully functioning and onboarding, as well as learning, from early adopters. ClinEco recently moved into the open beta stage of its development with a gratifyingly diverse mix of stakeholders registering for free membership, according to Marina Filshtinsky, M.D., co-founder and senior vice president of strategy and product development.
Editor’s Note: ClinEco and Clinical Research News both have the same parent company: Cambridge Innovation Institute.
As of early December, 18 clinical trial sponsors (large and small), 14 contract research organizations (CROs), 65 technology service providers, seven clinical trial site networks, and five nonprofits have signed up, Filshtinsky reports. She and Micah Lieberman, co-founder and vice president of community and business development for ClinEco, also run Cambridge Healthtech Institute’s Summit for Clinical Ops Executives (SCOPE) where the idea for the platform took root.
Sometime after SCOPE 2023 in February, ClinEco will mature into a subscription-based ecosystem for CROs, technology service providers, and pharmaceutical companies, says Lieberman.
The key capabilities currently are a pair of dashboards, for individuals and their affiliated company, and a “narrow and deep” search function specific to the growing clinical research community with intuitive parameters to facilitate finding only relevant information, Lieberman says, drawing a contrast with the messy world of Google searches. The data is effectively a curated and updated database of members, which comes with a built-in incentive for sellers to build out their profiles with thoughtfully selected tags, so they show up in returned results fully but appropriately.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the ClinEco team has been soliciting feedback from registered members who will help inform future development of the ecosystem, adds Lieberman.
Among the lessons learned to date are that ClinEco can’t be just for the usual suspects, says Lieberman. Innovation leads aren’t necessarily shopping for vendor capabilities, “but they are definitely always trying to stay up on the landscape and can only go to SCOPE in February and maybe one other show, so they need access [to insights 24/7] without having to necessarily get on a plane.”
The challenge is to “strike a balance” between enabling vendors to have channels to buyers and keeping the marketplace free of clutter, Lieberman adds. “We want to cut through the noise and give people value.”
Nuts And Bolts
It’s easy and free to register as a member of ClinEco, points out Lieberman. Simply go to clineco.io and click the “Request to Join” button in the upper right-hand corner of the page.
The process involves putting in a work email and, on the back end, validating a registrant is a real person representing a real company. Once approved, all the features of the platform are fully available (non-members are limited to three searches).
Members have visibility to what their colleagues are doing, provided they have also registered with ClinEco. The dashboard experience included a company email inbox, to help ensure the continuity of relationships between buyers and sellers despite employee turnover, says Lieberman.
The member dashboard also has a featured news stream from Clinical Research News, recently viewed companies, listing of colleagues on ClinEco, webinar learning opportunities, and metrics such as most popular searches by keywords (e.g., clinical supply and real-world data).
Keyword popularity is “pretty fluid,” notes Filshtinsky. The latest list is shared on a biweekly basis as a courtesy to existing users. Business analytics capabilities of ClinEco will of course become more meaningful once the platform has a critical mass of established users.
Companies’ forward-facing community profile is what gives them a public presence in the ecosystem, says Lieberman, which is why companies are encouraged to develop their profiles carefully and deliberately. For buyers, including study sponsors and CROs, the results page of searches is a familiar interface much as they’d see on bestbuy.com or yelp.com when looking for a computer or restaurant.
“Our friends inside of biotech and pharma companies—pharmaceutical procurement, clinical ops, trial managers, heads of feasibility, heads of recruitment, data management folks—are sometimes searching for new capabilities and they want to understand who is doing what,” Lieberman says. But internal databases may have gone stale and global search engines like Google are simply too noisy.
The beauty of ClinEco is both that the community is self-contained and vendors, when filling out their profile, are limited to 10 checkboxes (e.g., protocol automation and patient recruitment) when answering the question, “What do you do?” They are forced to narrow the list to what they’re good at and can provide other relevant information such as the investigational products and therapeutic areas they support, when and where their company was founded and if it is private or public or women- or minority-owned, the names of key executives and thought leaders, and perhaps a few white papers and video clips.
Buyers can potentially learn a lot about would-be partners, says Lieberman. Companies can be searched based on the parameters they are asked to provide in their profile, the most complex of which falls under the header of “clinical trial services and technologies.” The long dropdown menu includes items such as patient recruitment and engagement with a submenu of yet more options—among them, equity and inclusion, eConsent, eCOA (electronic clinical outcome assessment), and patient compliance.
This provides a narrower set of results, directing buyers to the most-relevant companies and profiles to perhaps thin the list further, he continues. From their dashboard in ClinEco, they can then streamline their request for information (RFI) to as many as five vendors with one click.
More than 100 companies have (or are in the process of) filling out their profile, with many more to come, Lieberman says. ClinEco has publicly welcomed many of these companies onto the platform via LinkedIn, the popular social media site for business networking. Among them are Science 37 and Medable (decentralized trial providers), SubjectWell (risk-free patient recruitment), Clincierge (minority-owned patient logistics management specialist), MMG (patient recruitment and retention), and Techsol Life Sciences (clinical development, medical affairs, and post-marketing surveillance business solutions provider).
The platform was prepopulated with publicly available information on 640 companies representing the clinical research industry, adds Filshtinsky. These include relatively narrow profiles on biopharmaceutical companies, CROs, and clinical trial site networks that, over time, are expected to be voluntarily expanded by those stakeholders.
Similarly, it is anticipated that smaller boutique sponsor and CRO organizations not on the original list will have employees who will either want to build out their company’s profile from scratch or join a profile that a colleague has already started proactively building, Lieberman says. In all cases, individuals exist within the ecosystem under the banner of their company.
The largest groups at present consist of no more than six or seven people, says Filshtinsky, in some cases (e.g., Jazz Pharmaceuticals) focused on a specific role such as patient recruitment. While a service provider might want to have a representative from marketing, business development, and a few subject matter experts on ClinEco, larger pharmaceutical companies and CROs may ultimately have many more signing up given the large number of people involved in innovation, clinical operations, trial management, feasibility, data management, and procurement—all with different needs who are also shopping or doing landscape assessment at different times.
Sponsor companies have diversity requirements when it comes to their vendor base as well as the patient population in their trials, she adds, and ClinEco can help them identify business partners that are women- or minority-owned. “We see that people are already using this filter.”
In the future, Lieberman says, he hopes to see some of those capabilities crowdsourced by community members who opt to learn from each other. They might share useful spreadsheets or knowledge about how to set up decentralized trials, for instance, or volunteers to manage a discussion group about real-world data or making the clinical research enterprise more sustainable.
The only prerequisite is that what happens on ClinEco be for the betterment of clinical research and the streamlining of it, Lieberman adds. “If we can take a few weeks off someone’s trial time, our job is done, and we’ve done something.”