As Inteliquet’s Senior Vice President of Life Sciences, Peter heads up all efforts around the delivery of our solutions to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, contract research organizations (CROs), and other groups using patient-level data. For more than 25 years, Peter has led, guided, and nurtured the growth and development of firms that support biopharma clinical research and commercialization. We spoke about why he joined Inteliquet to lead the expansion of our life sciences offerings, and how working at CROs during the 1990s AIDs crisis left a formative impression on him.
What drew you to healthcare?
After graduate school, I worked in legislative consulting for a policy group in Washington, D.C. They had a section focused on a healthcare, and I was doing Medicare and Medicaid usage research for pharma companies. We identified barriers and found ways to overcome them. It was successful, and we came to the attention of the CRO industry since their focus in mid-1990s was “molecule to market.” My partners and I sold to PAREXEL and became their commercial services group, and I ran the post-marketing group. Our very first project was the development and operation of the largest women’s health registry ever created and effectively After leaving, I rejoined the CRO environment and eventually became President of Premier Research’s US group. and ran the US division, and later, I was the general manager of a US division of a European CRO.
What was formative about your pharmaceutical industry experience?
When I began it was a time of a huge sea change in patient advocacy. Public health advocates, such as the late Larry Kramer, were demanding attention be paid and solutions be found for people with AIDS. Our company helped pharma companies identify barriers to getting drugs to patients then implemented solutions to those barriers. Consequently, I helped design and run some of the first reimbursement hotlines and patient assistance programs. Manufacturers knew that they needed to take the position that no patient would go without treatment because of a lack of money so we made it possible for patients, nurses, and physicians to get medicines they otherwise couldn’t afford.
What lesson did you come away from that work?
What made an impression on me was how Kramer and other advocates refused to accept the status quo. They said no to local, state, and federal government officials and other institutions and the industry who wanted to follow the old ways while people died. They made it clear patients would not and should not be forgotten. They had the moral high ground and, unfortunately, they had nothing to lose. They got the FDA to expand access, speed approvals, and change how it looked at data. Their worked changed healthcare and the patient advocacy environment.
The lesson was that you don’t have to accept the status quo. You just don’t. Not only that, as a patient, you have the perfect right to challenge the status quo and say, “I want something else.”
So, you took that with you to Inteliquet?
Of course, because the same moral high ground belongs to cancer patients. They are real people; it can be hard to remember that when you’re spending days looking at data, charts, and reports. Even though you could say that Inteliquet is on the periphery of healthcare delivery, we are a large piece of the puzzle that helps patients get identified, screened, matched, and enrolled in a trial. When that happens, that person, their family, and their friends have reason to hope. And we were a small part of that.
We’ve enrolled more than 1,000 patients in trials, and we helped to touch many people, when you consider that a patient has a mother, a father, or a spouse. We’ve touched 5,000+ lives. Inteliquet has an amazing potential to expand the direct impact on creating access for patients and helping to give them options.
So, this is what excites you about Inteliquet?
The possibilities excite me, yes. I was impressed with Inteliquet and its ability to do something to help people with cancer and their families. But I’m even more impressed now that I’m here.
We have a unique model and assets. When I look at our data management tools and techniques and software, there is no other solution that does what we do to get so many types of disparate EMR data to a place where it is useful for identifying, screening, matching, and enrolling patients in trials. The data assets Inteliquet has—and how we work with them—allow us to help pharma and sites move further down the enrollment path more quickly—it’s more direct. We efficiently extract EMR and EMR-related data and put it into a standardized format regardless of the originating system—we are EMR-agnostic. There is also great potential to apply our approach to synthetic cohorts and regulatory-grade data for virtual trials.
But technology will only take you so far. It is not just about technology and data.
What do you mean?
You can have the best data, best analytics, and best algorithms. But if you don’t have the relationships with the people doing the work at clinical sites, if you don’t have the right people looking and analyzing data, and helping sites to understand it, it won’t work.
So, you cannot take people out of the equation?
Exactly. And it’s why Inteliquet has something special. We have the tools, the relationships with the clinical sites, and the people to help sites get better at it. It all works together. You can’t take the people out of it. I don’t care how good your software and your data are. If you don’t have the right people and relationships working with it and leveraging it, it’s not going to get you to where you think it will—or need to be.
Earlier, you mentioned the importance of regulatory-grade data. What can it do?
We should be able to dip into RWE and help pharma companies use that data to support additional product approvals and label changes. It has the potential to be faster and less expensive that prospective studies. Meaning we could potentially save billions of dollars in formal trials and get treatments to patients faster. It’s not feasible, let alone practical, to run a full trial for every drug and treatment option. We could see quicker, less costly paths to the same information. That will only bring more access to, and options for, patients.
Again, there is an opportunity to challenge the status quo. This isn’t all going to happen overnight, but it is a direction in which we can strive.
What makes you say that?
I think Inteliquet is bringing to market a new standard that is challenging how people see data. The problem is that it’s judged in the context of current standards, which does Inteliquet a disservice. I’m not saying that we can solve all of the problems around trials, but we are a piece of the oncology research puzzle—and it’s a really big piece. It could be a “corner piece.”
Because we help get to “yes” or “no” more quickly and more accurately. Whether it is asking if a site is right for a particular trial, or if a patient at a site is the best fit for this trial. We bring more insight into robust patient data, and we do it faster because of our wholistic approach to data, technology, and people.
Here’s an example…I just had this conversation. A healthcare IT or data source company says to a sponsor or a CRO that they have 500 patients they can review manually to see if they are appropriate for a trial. Inteliquet says that we have 100 patients—de-identified in our system just to be clear, and the sponsor looks at us skeptically. And we literally have 100 patients that are good possibilities because it is about the quality of the data, plus the holistic approach we used to find these 100 patients.
So, you can make the haystack smaller when looking for the needle?
Well, the haystack in the same size; we can just find the needles more quickly.
CROs/sponsors know they must be creative to find patients today; they know that they can’t get them from just one funnel. But when we say that our 100 patients are more meaningful than the other vendor’s 500 patients, of course they are skeptical—they have been burned enough.
So, we tell the story of how we get to these 100 patients in the “haystack.” How we cut and curate and enrich patient EMR data, and then work with the sites so they can successfully find patients. The sponsor then buys into the approach, and they are willing to work with us because we are transparent about our process and approach. And we back up our stance by taking on a level of financial risk, which can go a long way to building partnerships.
So, you see the biggest challenge facing the industry is changing the status quo?
Absolutely. But it is not about being brash and proclaiming you have the new right answer. It’s showing your work, frankly, and making converts. It’s having meaningful and transparent conversations, and showing people you understand their position, and that you have the data and approach that makes sense.
One unique dataset, one patient, one clinical site, one drug trial at a time. This is how you change the status quo.