Corengi Seeks to Bring Clinical Trial Information Into the World of Web 2.0
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write posts on basic logistics to fellow patients, about whether parking is cheap and easy near the clinical trial site, how many times you have to go see the doctor per month, and how long it really requires you be away from work. “We want to allow the community to engage and educate patients,” Luce says.
Ah, but clinical trials are a whole lot more regulated than, say, consumer electronics, where people can say whatever they want about a TV online. Giving patients the tools to easily share information about clinical trials can be a recipe for trouble. Patients who enroll in a study, for example, could start raving about how much benefit they think they are getting from an experimental drug before a study is over, and therefore injecting bias into the minds of other patients and researchers before the proper statistical analysis can be done. There’s also the possibility of more underhanded tactics, like pharma sales people or investors attempting to pose as patients to extract information from them during studies, or even to try to manipulate the outcome one way or another through bias.
Luce acknowledges that there are legit concerns about how clinical trial information gets communicated online, and says his company is developing mechanisms to police bad activity. But he also says the cat is already out of the bag. People can, and already do, make postings on Facebook about how they are enrolled in certain trials, and got some kind of positive or negative result. The difference is that this information is scattered far and wide over the web, and isn’t really aggregated in one place, Luce says.
“People already do that types of communication, and it frustrates pharma companies. Not everybody will love it,” he says.
Getting buzz and users is key for Corengi in its early days. At least one patient advocacy group has shown interest, Luce says. Once some users start coming in and populating the site, then it will be time to start talking with pharmaceutical companies about targeted ads to help recruit patients into their own specific trials, Luce says.
So far, Luce has put in about $10,000 of his own money, and he says he has commitments from angel investors for more than $100,000. If things go well with Type 2 diabetes, then the company could start building similar sites for other common conditions with lots of ongoing trials—rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few.
The size of the market opportunity seems like mostly guesswork, but Luce said he estimates that big drugmakers spend $500 million a year on recruiting patients into clinical trials. An interactive web resource is only likely to capture a small slice of that pie, when includes the ads you see on buses, in newspapers, and through Google keyword searches. Luce doesn’t sound like he has any delusions of grandeur.
“My goal is to create something useful for patients that makes a meaningful difference in the industry,” Luce says. “I’m not trying to create the next Facebook here, but I want it to be helpful to patients and sustainable as a business.”