AstraZeneca has made a bold move by offering its in-house digital clinical trial expertise to clinical research organisations (CROs) and other pharmaceutical companies via the launch of healthtech business Evinova. AstraZeneca’s apparent willingness to share expertise with its competitors has raised some eyebrows, but the British firm is steadfast in arguing that unified clinical trial criteria is crucial for regulators and ultimately improving the patient experience and outcomes.


We know that regulators, healthcare professionals and care teams at clinical trial sites do not want a fragmented approach [to clinical trials]

Cristina Duran, CEO, Evinova


Drawing on In-house Digital Expertise

AstraZeneca recently launched its own healthtech business, Evinova. A standalone company under the UK-based firm’s umbrella, Evinova will offer services based on the digital clinical trial solutions the big pharma is already deploying for its own research. According to AstraZeneca, the new company’s offering will draw on “AstraZeneca’s deep experience of developing novel therapeutics and with insights from thousands of patients and clinical researchers.”

AstraZeneca has made an ongoing commitment to digitalisation, recognising data’s ability to speed up processes and reach patients sooner. Cristina Duran, former AstraZeneca chief digital officer of R&D and now CEO of Evinova is more than familiar with the potential of digital solutions. “In a study we published with new novel leads on endpoints supported by digital, we were able to run the study with 50 percent fewer patients because we have more data points that we can collect from home,” she said ahead of Evinova’s creation. “You have a lot more recurring data and you can do it much more often through telehealth. And the cost is cheaper because it has a shorter timeline. The benefits are win-win, so it’s a huge opportunity for pharma to continue investing in a digital hub.”

The firm claims that by sharing the digital and AI expertise it has invested in heavily in recent years with CROs and fellow pharmaceutical companies, it will be able to “serve the wider healthcare community and create new standards for the sector.” So far, the leading CROs Parexel and Fortrea have signed on to offer Evinova’s solutions to their customers.

AstraZeneca also contends that the use of Evinova’s digital solutions will ultimately improve the patient experience in clinical trials while optimising all of the related processes. “We believe Evinova’s combination of scientific expertise and track record in developing AI-enabled digital technologies at scale, provides a real opportunity to fundamentally improve patient care, drive healthcare transformation and reduce carbon emissions,” said AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot.


A Unified Approach

Evinova aims to optimise clinical trial design and delivery through a suite of digital solutions that will allow client companies to deliver both traditional and decentralized or hybrid trials.

Through this single solution approach, Evinova looks to simplify and unify the clinical trial process. “In a clinical trial, you can end up with six different apps and six different devices and it’s extremely complex for the patient,” said Duran. “So we’ve really worked on how to simplify that.”

For AstraZeneca, sharing its digital clinical trial expertise with the industry at large does not mean the company will lose its competitive edge. On the contrary, the idea behind Evinova is to introduce an industry-wide approach to clinical trials and in so doing satisfy regulators.

“We know that regulators, healthcare professionals and care teams at clinical trial sites do not want a fragmented approach,” Duran asserted. “They do not want a future where every pharmaceutical company provides their own, different digital solutions. They want solutions that work across the sector, simplify their workload and benefit patients broadly.”


Digital Drug Development Suite

The Evinova suite of solutions encompasses a unified trial tool for patients as well as for clinical trial site and sponsor staff.  Beyond the direct collection of primary and secondary endpoint data, the tool also supports virtual visits including direct-to-patient delivery of medicines, telehealth, remote patient monitoring and human biological sample tracking. Another important aspect of the tool is that it provides a single patient app available in 80 languages.

In addition, the Evinova suite includes a study design and planning tool that uses AI and machine learning algorithms and a portfolio management tool that supports clinical programme and trial management, reporting and governance.