GlaxoSmithKline, Purdue Pharma looking to test ResearchKit for drug R&D

Apple ResearchKit

At least two pharmaceutical companies are looking to use Apple’s ResearchKit to clinically test their drugs.

One of them, GlaxoSmithKline, is currently “working on integrating (ResearchKit) into clinical trials and planning to start in coming months,” according to a BuzzFeed article. No details are available yet, but Michelle Crouthamel — project manager with the company’s Digital Platform Performance unit — said they are seeing Apple’s platform as a chance “to improve patient engagement and data collection.”

Purdue Pharma — the privately held, multibillion-dollar drug developer in Connecticut — is also eyeing ResearchKit for research data collection.

On the other hand, Gilead Sciences and Pfizer have no plans to use the platform at the moment.“We know that all these changes in tech are going to impact health care, but we don’t know exactly how,” said Larry Pickett Jr., Purdue’s vice president and CIO. “People have been talking about it for a long time, but haven’t been able to figure out how to leverage that data and take advantage of it. My team views ResearchKit as a very significant milestone in being able to move that capability ahead.”

Purdue is only in the proof-of-concept stage in its ResearchKit exploration, Pickett said. The company has vetted the platform, but hasn’t yet decided to build an app or determined what type of data it would collect.

The big pharma’s interest is telling, and we’re sure that other major companies will be joining the ride in the near future. Or not, with Gilead Sciences and Pfizer both saying they currently have no plans to use the platform.

Nevertheless, ResearchKit can be a powerful tool for biotech companies, which gamble billions of dollars and years of study on experimental therapies for various illnesses and health conditions. Apps made using the platform periodically ask users questions and draw on data continuously collected by a smartphone’s sensors. And these data sets can tell pharmaceuticals how their potential clients are reacting to a drug, for example, or whether they’re struggling with a condition that a therapy in development might someday be able to treat.

Apple’s ResearchKit provides researchers with more ways to collect data than ever before. Unveiled in March, it kicked off with a couple of projects tackling diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and other conditions, which were created by researchers at universities, medical centers, and nonprofits.