Novaratis began working with Science 37, a mobile technology and clinical trials company based in Los Angeles, on new efforts to expedite clinical drug trials.

Novartis Inc., one of the biggest international drug makers, is taking more steps to make digital healthcare a strategic priority.

Novartis, based in Basel, Switzerland, in August appointed Bertrand Bodson, as its chief digital officer. Now Bodson, as part of a shakeup by CEO Vas Narasimhan, has been named a member of the company’s executive committee.

Other executive personnel moves by Novartis include the resignation of Novartis operations president André Wyss and the addition of Steffen Lang, global head of Novartis technical operations, and Shannon Klinger, chief ethics, risk and compliance officer, to the executive committee. “We are making these changes to harness the full strength of Novartis as we build the leading medicines company, powered by data and digital,” Narasimhan says. “The appointments will help us accelerate our efforts to lead in data and digital.”

Remote participation in research allows us to gather more meaningful real-world evidence in our clinical trials.

Bodson, who joined Norvatis after stepping down as chief marketing and digital officer for Sainsbury, an online retailer in the United Kingdom, also is stepping up the company’s digital health initiatives.

For example, last week Novaratis began working with Science 37, a mobile technology and clinical trials company based in Los Angeles, on new efforts to expedite clinical drug trials. Over the next three years Novartis and Science 37 expect to launch as many as 10 clinical drug trials using mobile healthcare.

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The two companies already have initiated virtual trials for cluster headache, acne and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a type of fatty liver disease. Now new virtual trials that use mobile apps and remote patient monitoring and are carried out at a participant’s home or local physician’s office, rather than at a central trial site such as a large hospital, are expected to begin later this year in the U.S in the areas of dermatology, neuroscience and oncology.

Only 2% of the eligible population in the U.S. participate in clinical trials and those patients who do participate attend an average of 11 trial site visits in six months, representing a significant burden for both patients and trial centers, Novartis says.

By bringing the trial online directly to the patient, Novartis aims to decrease the burden of clinical trial participation on patients and trial centers, the drug maker says.

More important to the company’s supply chain and business development initiative is using mobile and digital healthcare to speed up clinical trials for new drugs, which can take up to 3 years to complete.

“We have been impressed with the recruitment in the virtual trial setup and believe for many patient populations this will be superior to traditional hospital or clinic sites,” says Evan Beckman, head of translational medicine at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. “Remote participation in research allows us to gather more meaningful real-world evidence in our clinical trials.”

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For the upcoming clinical trials, Novartis and Science 37 will use Network Oriented Research Assistant, or NORA, Science 37’s technology that enables patients to participate in clinical research regardless of their geographical location using mobile devices and telemedicine services.

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