Putting Patients First: The Benefits of Decentralized Clinical Trials

Podcast: Science With a Twist

Episode Summary

Clinical trials are essential for the discovery of new treatments and support the development of new life-saving drugs and medical devices that can benefit millions worldwide. But one of the greatest challenges in clinical research is the lack of representation.

We kick off our two-episode Clinical Research Series on the Science With a Twist podcast, as our host John Manns welcomes guests Tim Rich and Thad Wolfram. Tim is the VP of Digital and Decentralized Services for the PPD clinical research business of Thermo Fisher Scientific. Thad is the president of EmVenio Research. They talk about the benefits of decentralized trials, the importance of improving representation in clinical research, and different ways to make trials more patient-centric.

Video Highlight

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Host Profile

John Manns

Senior Director, Strategy, Innovation and Consultancy, Digital and Decentralized Solutions PPD, part of Thermo Fisher Scientific.



Where to find him: LinkedIn

Guest Profiles

Tim Rich 

VP of Digital and Decentralized Services at Thermo Fisher Scientific


Noteworthy: Together, Thermo Fisher and EmVenio are working to accelerate the development of new medicines by offering decentralized clinical trials and being more patient-focused.


Where to find him: LinkedIn

Thad Wolfram

President at EmVenio Research

EmVenio Research


Noteworthy: Together, Thermo Fisher and EmVenio are working to accelerate the development of new medicines by offering decentralized clinical trials and being more patient-focused.


Where to find him: LinkedIn

Quotation marks
“As an industry, we talk about patient-centricity, but I don’t think there’s anything more patient-centric that we can do from that perspective than taking a research site – with all the appropriate professionals on board - to the patient’s home.”

Tim Rich
VP of Digital and Decentralized Services
Thermo Fisher Scientific

Key Insights

Decentralized clinical trials aim to reduce patient burden. Decentralized clinical trials can help make research more patient-centric. Tim explains the role of decentralization, "It's fair to say that that change management component is absolutely critical in terms of the decentralized adoption, and I think, when I look ahead in terms of decentralization, I see an amazing landscape for patients and the partnerships with EmVenio and also the kind of opportunities Thermo Fisher Scientific has in really driving forward unique and collaborative solutions for the better of the patient and really focusing on reducing that patient burden."


We need to make clinical trials more patient-centric. Patient-centricity is key when it comes to improving participation in clinical trials and clinical research progress overall. Tim says, "As an industry, we talk about patient-centricity and I think we embrace significant patient-centricity by taking a research site with all the research professionals on board to the patient's home."


Representation in clinical trials matters. Diversity is vital to preventing and treating diseases across race and gender. Thad says, "A couple of stats recently — there was one study we supported where of the 2,500 patients that EmVenio enrolled, 65% were from underrepresented populations, and so it really showed that value there. And what we're seeing more broadly is that across the studies we support, greater than 40% of the patients we're working with come from minority populations. And so, to contrast that against industry stats of around 10% to 20% as an average, we're offering more than double the ability to reach these populations that otherwise don't have access. So I think what we're seeing is that the results are really bearing on the value that we're bringing together."

Quotation marks
“The next piece of all of this is that clinical trials are a protocol-driven process. And so, the sooner folks like the PPD digital and decentralized services team and EmVenio can get into the conversation with sponsors, the better we’re able to help guide a protocol design to best leverage flexible approaches to when and where patients are engaged on a study.”

Thad Wolfram
EmVenio Research

Episode Highlights

Developing mobile clinical research sites

Thad says, "There are really two ways that we're working with the PPD clinical research business of Thermo Fisher Scientific. The first is through a site extension model where our mobile sites are an extension of an existing research site, really complimenting and enhancing what that site is already doing today, allowing for mobilization into the community, and expanding the geographical reach of those sites. The second is in a standalone site model where the mobile site actually acts as the site itself. And so these are both models that we're deploying and really helping to drive equality in research as we're able to reach underrepresented populations. And, I think, with this, we've got some great examples of how this is really helping patient retention and driving some other positives in clinical research."

Recruiting rare disease patients is very hard

Tim says, "The way I look at rare disease — it's certainly one of the most challenging, if not the [most] challenging, populations to recruit into. And we all know that the very nature of rare disease makes studies incredibly hard. So, when we do have patients in rare disease studies, every data point, every sample, every visit is of the utmost importance."

The decentralized ecosystem is a toolkit of solutions

Tim says, "What we've done within digital and decentralized solutions is we've created a decentralized ecosystem, and what that DCT ecosystem is, it's a toolkit. If you think about it, it's a toolkit of solutions — whether that be technology, operational site structures, community, etc — which enable us to serve the broad client base and the variability of protocols that we see day-to-day. And it enables our dedicated DCT consultants to ensure we're applying the right solution to the right protocol at the right time."

There is an increased awareness of clinical research

Tim says, "We've never been this situation before where we have so much awareness of research in the general population. Research is in the news, research has been talked about in terms of vaccinations and so forth. So there's an increased awareness and with that, what we really want to do is maximize on that and put the patients at the center of everything that we're doing."

To learn more about PPD, part of Thermo Fisher Scientific and our role in Decentralized Clinical trials, click here or reach out to godigital@ppd.com.