i3 and Acurian to Co-Market Site Selection Services

December 10, 2009

Applied Clinical Trials

i3’s Pharma Informatics arm and full service patient recruitment and retention firm, Acurian, have entered into a non-equity license agreement that allows the companies to co-market the other’s services.

For Acurian, the deal allows it to offer sponsors a slice of i3’s database of 115,000 potential investigators for clinical trials and in ranked order based on de-identified patient data—a site selection service that customers have been requesting.

For i3, it will receive immediate access to Acurian’s extensive sponsor contacts—an instant sales force—that is promoting its database of physician and facility claims data, from a well-known managed care plan.

According to Bill Gwinn, vice president of Clinical Informatics at i3 Pharma Informatics, the database can offer the granularity needed in today’s clinical trial environment. “There are 40, 50, 80 specifications in a protocol that have become highly detailed,” explained Gwinn. “It’s not enough to just go to an oncologist for a trial. For example, in end-stage non-small cell lung cancer; there are 8100 patients nationally meeting that criteria. Finding the access to target the right physicians with those patients will eliminate time and cost delays.”

Roger Smith, Senior VP of Operations at Acurian, told Applied Clinical Trials “this database allows us to help sponsors get smarter in choosing sites.” Acurian, over the past 11 years, has built a proprietary patient panel of over 50 million patients, provides centralized advertising capabilities, a hosted enrollment management platform, and built relationships with investigative sites to foster recruitment and retention. In addition, Smith said it has invested a lot of money into its statistical and quantitative group. So much so that sponsors—impressed with their feasibility forecasts—wondered if Acurian could apply that same level of detail to find sites.

“It fills a need we’ve been getting requests for,” said Smith. “But it will also allow Acurian to become more analytical and involved in the upstream services…before recruitment.”

According to Gwinn, the informatics group has made a lot of progress on the database in the past six months. It offers over 40 to 50 data elements for one investigator, to build as large a profile as they can. “The client is looking at this investigator as a potential up for hire and the profile is a great screening tool,” said Gwinn. “We will add the number of potential patients that are within driving distance of a site.”

Meanwhile, the i3 Cube trial and data management system for clinical process automation utilizes the United HealthGroup data in its recruitment tool. And, i3 research, the i3 CRO can also utilize the database.

Gwinn, however, does not see this agreement with Acurian as competing with the i3 clinical research business. “We view them as a patient enrollment service, which does not compete with i3 research as a full service CRO.” Gwinn, who spearheaded the deal with Acurian based on what he believed was a needed information service for them, added, “It’s a really good fit. Wonderfully complementary.”

From Smith’s perspective, the patient recruitment/enrollment/retention world is facing, and will continue to face, a lot of pressure as outsourcing in the pharmaceutical industry continues because it won’t be able to sustain all the players. But he believes Acurian is well positioned for the next market iteration. “We offer performance based pricing. We are committing to a goal, to meeting enrollment milestones,” explained Smith. “And sponsors are demanding that kind of accountability.” Additionally, he believes that while sponsors need software and data, they need someone to roll up that data into a service.