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ERT opening Innovation Lab in Boston

Monday, February 8, 2016

ERT is launching an Innovation Lab in Boston on February 9. A cloud platform solutions provider, ERT supplies the industry, sponsors and CROs alike, with technology, services and consultancy. The company is known for first-in-the-industry features such as wireless eDiaries to collect electronic Clinical Outcome Assessments (eCOA).

The new Lab was designed as a physical space to foster collaboration between leading technology providers, pharmaceutical researchers and ERT clinical scientists to develop diverse technologies. Its goal is to reduce risk while exploring possibilities for improving pharmaceutical research, specifically creating new and efficient ways to collect and use patient-centric data. Founded on principles of lean development, the Lab is meant to yield results in weeks rather than months.

Scott Dixon, vice president of marketing and strategy at ERT, said, “In the Innovation Lab, we are repurposing diverse technologies for use in clinical research and broad clinical care. As an example, through collaboration with industry and technology providers, the Lab is exploring new solutions for leveraging wearables and wireless medical devices within clinical trials—all with the intent of delivering better patient data to support the development of safe and effective therapies.”

Though ERT’s headquarters are based in Philadelphia, Boston was selected for the lab site due to a variety of innovation activity currently taking place in the educational, healthcare and technology sectors, making it well-suited to facilitate the expert collaboration essential to the Innovation Lab. It closely follows the launch of Mass Innovation Labs, an accelerated commercialization space, which has signed 10 member companies since opening its doors in May 2015. Companies include CRISPR Therapeutics, Imagen Biopharma, Gritstone Oncology, WaveGuide, Radius Health, TCR2 and Editas. Mass Innovation Labs’ member companies account for more than $1 billion in startup R&D capital in one location.

“Our broad goal in operating the Innovation Lab is to expand the art of the possible for pharmaceutical research,” said James Munz, vice president of innovation at ERT. “By enabling industry to leverage the Innovation Lab with minimal risk and rapid prototype deployment, we hope to remove barriers, enable researchers to embrace new medical technologies and foster an environment for researchers to think more broadly about how to evaluate the complete patient experience during clinical development.”

The opening of ERT’s Innovation Lab will be celebrated with numerous events, including a patient advocacy luncheon and tour, and a grand opening welcome reception. While many innovation labs projects are covered by non-disclosure agreements, ERT’s Lab will offer a variety of public demonstrations. The grand opening will feature tours of the area normally kept private, and displays demonstrating how technology benefits clinical research. For example, Hexoskin, a smart shirt that monitors vital statistics and improves athletic performance, will be on display.

“There is enormous potential for the use of wearables in clinical research, most remarkably when used to increase the quality and quantity of data you get from a trial,” said Pierre-Alexandre Fournier, CEO of Hexoskin. “The Innovation Lab enables us to demonstrate this potential with ERT’s expert scientists, to remove the barriers that researchers often face, and ultimately to improve the clinical development process using digital health technologies.”

Also offered is two weeks of innovation, worth $20,000. Attendance isn’t required to enter. Candidates must submit a clinical problem to the Lab that is designed to improve the quality and reliability of clinical trial data.

Response from the industry has been positive, and up to 100 attendees are expected, including representatives of pharmaceutical companies, technology leaders, advocates and the general healthcare industry.

Craig Lipset, head of clinical innovation at Pfizer, said, “Improving patient experience and leveraging digital tools are toward the top of the list for most life sciences companies today, and mobile sits nicely at the convergence. With a rapidly evolving ecosystem, now is the time to work in an open and collaborative manner to keep clinical trials and participation moving into the 21st century.”

Indeed, a number of promising projects are already underway at the Lab. Dixon of ERT said, “The Innovation Lab is currently exploring over two dozen projects that, if tested successfully, could prove very valuable to pharmaceutical researchers. Projects include the use of activity trackers, biosensor patches and the Apple Research kit, which could have significant impact on clinical development, as well as medication dispensing and compliance devices, which could support improved patient engagement and medication adherence.”

ERT will be offering a traveling Innovation Lab at their annual European Congress in Barcelona April 12 to 14, and at their U.S. COA/ePRO Congress in Orlando May 3 to 5. As additional locations are identified, they will be announced at www.ert.com/innovation-lab. ERT is also offering to take the traveling Lab to U.S.- and E.U.-based pharmaceutical and technology companies, which will allow for some of the innovations to be explored more thoroughly in a private setting.


Lisa Chontos is a freelance medical writer with 15 years of experience writing for hospitals, biotech firms, pharmaceutical companies and publications like CenterWatch. You can contact her at lisa@lisachontos.com.

This article was reprinted from Volume 20, Issue 05, of CWWeekly, a leading clinical research industry newsletter providing expanded analysis on breaking news, study leads, trial results and more. Subscribe »

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