Tyler Trueg is a project lead on the Patients 2 Trials Consortium, a collaboration among Lilly, Novartis and Pfizer aimed at helping patients match to clinical trials. He joined Lilly as part of the Lilly’s Visiting Scientist Fellowship, a program which allows doctoral graduates the ability to experience the drug development process and apply their expertise in a focused area within the organization.
Tyler’s experience in pharmacy and business, along with a passion for technology and disruptive innovation makes him a great addition to the Lilly COI team. While he is a scientist at heart, his entrepreneurial spirit drives him to find new ways to bring the patient's perspective into clinical trial design. His overall mission is to help clinical trial teams better connect with patients through the use of technology and community engagement. You can follow him on Twitter @tylertrueg.
You received both a PharmD and an MBA from Butler University. Tell us a little about the path you took from there to Lilly COI.
During pharmacy school, I was fortunate to have participated in a variety of medical mission trips with the Timmy Global Health organization to Guatemala and Ecuador. During these trips, we established clinics that allowed rural villagers to receive free medical care. This was an incredible experience in my life that taught me the significant impact basic access to health care can have on an individual or family. As I progressed through my education, I realized that a degree doesn't necessarily lead you to given job, but rather, gives you a set of skills that can be applied in various ways. I wanted to use these skills to impact and improve health care on a global level. This led me to Lilly.
I joined Lilly through the Visiting Scientist Fellowship, working as a project manager in early phase drug development. From there, I took on a position in clinical development to work on optimizing clinical design and enrollment for oncology trials. In this role, I got a chance to examine the possibilities of creating better clinical trials through the use of "big data." I also participated in a variety of internal projects focused on surfacing new clinical development ideas and ways to get patients involved in improving clinical research.
Innovation in clinical development became a particular interest of mine, due to the direct and positive impact clinical trial design can have on patients and their care. I have always felt that working in the open and leveraging the wisdom of crowd is key to developing innovations that are truly meaningful to patients. These interests led me down the path to Lilly COI, a group that is truly tying all of these concepts together. I am very excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the COI team and to help patients match to clinical trials.
Tell us a little about the project you are currently working on…
ClinicalTrials.gov contains a wealth of information on clinical trials. Unfortunately, the information on the site is sometimes incomplete, inconsistent, or both. The site asks study sponsors to provide eligibility criteria for clinical trials in a free text format. This allows each study sponsor to represent the eligibility criteria for clinical trials differently. If you are a patient searching for trials and trying to determine whether you are a potential match, this can be incredibly confusing and frustrating. Through our collaboration with Novartis and Pfizer, we are working to change this.
This project focuses on the development of “Target Profiles,” a simplified version of core eligibility criteria for a clinical trial. By making the way this information is presented consistent among clinical trial sponsors and in a machine-readable format, it will be easier for patients to find out quickly if they are eligible for a given clinical trial. An example use case involves allowing patients to use their Blue Button electronic medical record to “match” their health profile to a trial’s eligibility criteria.
What drives your commitment to patient-centered approaches to clinical trial design?
Last year, I had the opportunity to work with the design and innovation consultancy firm IDEO. We worked together to conduct patient simulations of clinical trials to help Lilly clinical trial teams understand the patient experience of a given trial and look for ways to make it better. Through that experience, I learned the importance and value of design thinking and putting the patient at the center of clinical development.
We have to ask people what they need in order to create products that will benefit them. We also have to be as open and transparent as we can about the projects that we're working on, and invite feedback from their intended users to make sure we're on the right track. Patients are the ones who make the brave decision to venture into the unknown world of clinical research. No matter how smart we are, we aren’t in their shoes. The least we can do is to design trials that make the experience better for them.
You seem to also be very passionate about information technology. How does technology mesh with your other interests?
I have always been fascinated with technology and the (relatively) recent evolution of the internet. It is truly amazing what people can create through the use of technology and what a widespread impact those creations can have. A simple idea can affect and connect millions of people in ways never seen before. Recently, a friend of mine had a baby and they FaceTime with her parents on the weekend. That child is growing up with the expectation that a phone call isn’t just voice. We are in a really interesting time and I can’t wait to see what comes next!
How do you think technology will change the clinical trial experience for patients?
While technology is great, technology is only a means to provide a solution for patients; it is not, in and of itself, the solution. The real change will come from designing better resources from the patient’s perspective, changing our culture to innovate and iterate faster, and become better at listening to the community.
Having said all of this, technology will allow us to make some really awesome things happen. For example, in the project I'm currently working on, the use of the Lilly COI API will allow technologists in the marketplace to use the Target Profiles that Lilly, Novartis and Pfizer develop. With this information easily available, patient advocacy groups could feature “widgets” on their website that help connect their members to clinical trials. Health care startups could make some really cool applications. Many things are possible when we make this information easy to use and readily available to the public.
Lilly COI is using technology to explore ways to make clinical development more patient-centered and enable innovation on a global scale. I think this is a great approach to use technology in creating a better patient experience. At the end of the day, my hope is that we are working to significantly improve and impact care. I think we are on the right track.