Thursday, January 24, 2013

Topic 21: ISS and the Web

I was speaking with a long time friend about this subject the other day and thought it would be an interesting blog post.

Investigator Initiated Studies (IIS) supported by biopharma grants is a significant element of MA responsibilities for some companies.  We will not be jumping into the strategic and scientific value of IIS studies with this post.  Instead, I will focus on the operational aspects, and specifically how I would think technology would make the process much more efficient.

Grant Application Process

Technology to manage the grant application process is widely available.  Transparency in this process is critical.  One of the goals of MA is to build positive working relationships with the scientific community and it is that same community of physicians and scientists applying for grants. So it is critical to ensure that the grant application process is just another element of the overall positive relationship.  That’s not to say all grant requests are supported, but the requesting process needs to be clear and efficient.  A good example of this can be seen at Celegene’s grant application webiste which includes an online application process and portal to allow the grant requestor visibility into the grant making process.

Not everyone can afford to build their own portal, but there are plenty of other solutions available over the web that require little in the way of investment and can meet the basic requirements, including here, here and here.

Depending on your interpretation of regulations, you may or may not be able to use these same systems to convey to the grant applicants that the organization’s research priorities are and grant resources are, to ensure that they have reasonable expectations.  See this example on the Genzyme page where they offer a direct link from the grant page to their research focus pages.

Study Execution Process

The use of the technology after the grant has been made varies widely among companies.  In the past, many organizations made the grant decisions, provided the product or funding, and then left the investigator alone.  After a period of time results either would or would not come out but the company had little involvement.  The problem with this approach is the situation where the IIS produced no results.  Without results, it calls into question the ethics of the funding.

So today, most organizations stay engaged in the IIS process but how they stay engaged varies widely.  I would like to suggest that one efficient way to stay engaged is to offer as part of the grant support the use of an electronic data capture (EDC) system.  While small scale studies like IIS don’t have to use systems like EDC since the data is limited, by providing such a service to the IIS it ensure that the study is capturing data in a structure manner, that the data is being managed and that the study will have something to show for the grant.  All these systems work over the web so there is no need for the IIS to manage the software themselves.

What has been your experience using technology to support IIS?  Leave a comment.

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