Technology executives from Clara Health, Lyft and public relations agency VSC have teamed up to launch a public health initiative aimed at boosting participation in COVID-19 clinical studies and research.
Software startup Clara Health built the registry platform and database to connect COVID-positive and -negative individuals with clinical trials for diagnostics, treatment and vaccine discovery. The free database is now open to researchers and the public.
While resources like registries for local blood donation and surveys on COVID-19 symptoms have made a positive impact, no one has created a definitive service connecting people to clinical trials, according to Evan Ehrenberg, CEO and co-founder of Clara Health.
The database, called World Without COVID, lists over 300 COVID-19 clinical trials, including all U.S. interventional studies and most international trials currently underway, Ehrenberg said.
The listing is automatically updated every day based on data pulled from ClinicalTrials.gov and other sources.
After registrants complete additional screening questions, Clara Health matches individuals with the study that best suits them based on eligibility criteria publicly documented for each clinical trial and can guide individuals through the process, which helps accelerate and increase conversion, Ehrenberg said.
Ehrenberg's goal is to accelerate research timelines for COVID-19 treatments, therapies and vaccines. "If we can shave a day or a week or a month off any of these initiatives that has a meaningful impact. We're excited to play a role in that effort and partner with other organizations that are doing their part."
After being diagnosed with COVID-19, Lyft’s chief strategy officer and former entrepreneur and venture capitalist Raj Kapoor sought the help of Clara Health to develop the platform, leveraging the company’s technical infrastructure already built to connect individuals with clinical studies. VSC founder Vijay Chattha also is involved to help get the word out about the initiative.
World Without COVID aims to address two immediate needs. First, identifying COVID-positive and -negative individuals to validate the efficacy of new diagnostic tests, targeted treatments, vaccines and plasma transfusion trials. The second goal is tracking immunity status and safety clearance for those interested in volunteering in healthcare and economic efforts down the line.
The platform enables individuals to take part in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Ehrenberg said.
"With a pandemic like this, where a lot of people are feeling scared or powerless, this helps to give them the power to play a role in developing potential new treatment options for an entire community of patients," he said.
Ehrenberg graduated from the University of California (UC), Berkeley at 16 and became the youngest neuroscience Ph.D. student at MIT. He co-founded Clara Health in 2016 along with Sol Chen, a former bioinformatics and computer vision researcher at MIT and the University of Michigan.
"We started Clara Health to democratize access to clinical trials so anyone can access potential new breakthroughs in medicine and accelerate their advancement," Ehrenberg said.
Clara Health’s global database includes most clinical trial opportunities for other diseases, and, to date, the platform has matched over 10,000 patients to more than 60,000 trials. The company is supported by patient and medical advisers hailing from top institutions including UC San Francisco, Takeda and MIT.
The San Francisco-based company has raised $11 million from investors including Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Kevin Hartz (founder of Eventbrite), Adrian Aoun and Nicholas Berggruen.
One of the biggest challenges with running clinical trials, including trials for new COVID-19 treatments, is the time it takes to find qualified volunteers, Ehrenberg said.
More than 80% of clinical trials are delayed, and 50% of trials that are terminated are due to not having enough enrolled participants, he said.
Matching the right volunteer to the proper study also is an obstacle, and this is where Clara Health and the World Without COVID initiative comes in, he said. Clara Health's platform aids with both raising awareness of research opportunities and participant matching.
The company's platform is designed to provide a better user experience for volunteers and also helps drive awareness of research opportunities through marketing and partnership outreach.
"We are taking something that has historically been a high-friction process, where there's been a lot of barriers, and we turned it into something that feels more like Airbnb or Lyft and other consumer-directed products," Ehrenberg said.