By Ann Neuer
August 17, 2009 | News from Phase Forward has been coming fast and furious lately. Between April and July, the company made three acquisitions and launched InForm GTM—the latest version of its flagship electronic data capture (EDC) solution.
The buying frenzy started with Phase Forward’s $14-million purchase of Waban, a provider of platform solutions for the automation of clinical data analysis. In July, the company signed an agreement to purchase Covance’s Interactive Voice and Web Response Services (IVRS/IWRS) business for $10 million, and also spent $11 million to acquire Maaguzi LLC, a provider of Web-based, electronic patient reported outcomes (ePRO).
Martin Young, VP corporate development and marketing, says this intense activity supports the company’s strategic vision of providing clients with a complete suite of solutions as the EDC market starts to mature, and moves beyond point solutions. “Our explicit strategy over the past three years has been to build on InForm’s strengths, our point solution that has driven the initial automation of clinical research. We are now at the point that EDC will be used in approximately 55-6¬0% of global trial starts this year, so we need to automate and integrate key areas such as randomization of patients, patient diaries, and provide a clinical data repository,” says Young.
Integrating these clinical trial functions requires what Phase Forward believes are best-in-class solutions for customers anxious for greater operational efficiencies as global clinical trials become more complex. The complexity stems from studies becoming longer and involving larger numbers of subjects, study visits, procedures, and forms to be completed in response to demands for more safety and efficacy data.
Young points to the growing use of ePRO as a good example of how more challenging studies impact the kinds of tools best suited for integration into a complete system. He explains that currently, personal digital assistants (PDAs) are the mainstay of some competitors’ systems. They are not Web-based, must have the correct version of the study loaded in, and must deploy an application to enable data to be sent over the Web. By comparison, Maaguzi’s solution is Web-based, requires no hardware, and can be used on any device with a browser, ranging from a desktop computer, laptop, even a smartphone.
“There is a trend toward large late-phase studies with huge numbers of subjects, sometimes tens of thousands. Often there is an ePRO component in those studies, so providing those subjects with PDAs can present huge logistical challenges and is cost-prohibitive. Some 25% to 30% of the cost of studies can be the cost of hardware. With the Maaguzi solution, there is no hardware cost,” Young says.
Tied into the recent acquisitions is the June release of InForm GTM (Global Trial Management), a significantly upgraded version that reflects a major effort to raise the bar on this well-established EDC solution. Paul Boyd, director of product design, and a psychologist, was intimately involved in developing InForm GTM. He joined Phase Forward in 2007, and started the Input Wanted program to partner with InForm users to bring them into the development process. As part of that effort, Boyd traveled to six countries, logging more than 25,000 miles and had some 150 conversations with end users to really understand how they utilize Phase Forward products.
“When we watched our customers work, we saw how complex their jobs are, in terms of working with multiple sponsors on multiple studies with multiple EDC products. We saw that technologies are built into people’s lives in a way they weren’t ten years ago. End users at sites have become much more technology-sophisticated,” Boyd says.
Out of that initiative came some valuable changes that are part of InForm GTM. The interface is more modern looking and includes updated icons and streamlined navigation. One small but important change is the ability to configure how many subjects per page the end user can see at once. He explains, “This allows information of interest to jump out at the study coordinator, such as whether there are unresolved queries. This is an easy and more efficient process than having to switch among pages in order to find this same information.”
Currently, there are 20 users of InForm GTM.