By Riley Kaminer
There’s big money in the world of medical trials. According to Miami-based expert Chris Ochner, the contract research industry is worth $1.2 trillion – with medical companies spending around $100 billion a year to find patients for clinical trials. These trails themselves can cost up to $50 million each, and there can be upwards of 70,000 active trials in the US at any given time.
Safe to say, these numbers quickly add up. Yet there’s still a fundamental flaw to this whole system, explained Ochner. Medical companies struggle to find the right patients, while patients are oftentimes unaware of potentially life-saving trials.
Ochner knows this firsthand from two perspectives. For one, he has spent the last two decades in the research and clinical trial space, with a particular focus on helping to find patients for trials.
So when his mother was diagnosed with stage 4 glioma, Ochner knew he could use his industry experience to connect her with a clinical trial. “I thought, no problem – I’ll get this done in 20 minutes,” Ochner told Refresh Miami. Ochner would soon experience the frustrations of this process from the patient’s perspective. “I spent a month and couldn’t find a trial for my own mother,” he said.
“That’s when I realized that this process is broken.” The culmination of this work can be seen in Ochner’s startup, Modern Trials. The company partners with healthcare organizations, integrating their patient data into Modern Trials’ systems. That enables clinical managers – Modern Trials’ core customers – to find patients that fit their trials.
The process for finding patients is as simple as a Google search, Ochner asserted. Users input their inclusion criteria and are presented with a series of results. While the patient’s identity is not revealed, the clinical managers are given the patient’s detailed medical profile. This helps them save time and ensure that they are finding the right patients for their needs. Once the researchers decide on the patients they are interested in, they contract the Modern Trials team to help them reach out to the patient and present the opportunity.
This digital-first approach stands in stark contrast to what Ochner described as the predominant method still used today: printed out pieces of paper with pieces of paper with contact info that people can rip off. Untargetted email blasts are equally ineffective, he argued. That is at least compared to Modern Trials’ system, since Ochner shared that 97% of patients request continued services. Research organizations also prefer this system, since the number one delay for trials is patient recruitment.
Modern Trials, which was founded in 2019, is currently completing its proof of concept stage. So far, the company has been bootstrapped, with plans for a full product launch within the next six months. Ochner said that there are 10 people working on Modern Trials mostly for equity at the moment, with a view to go full-time as soon as the product is completely launched. Already, the company has had some early traction, having won the 2022 ITEXPO IDEA Showcase [pictured above] and the 2022 Ignite Florida Startup Summit.
For now, Ochner is excited to continue building in Miami. “It’s been phenomenal here,” he said, noting the increased prominence of our local tech company. “This momentum is such an exciting thing to see, and there’s so much willingness to help,” he said, particularly highlighting South Florida Tech Hub as one organization that has opened doors for the startup.
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