Over the course of the last year and some change, the impact of digital health and the need for it has increased by an immeasurable amount.
Virtual care became the norm after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and, although a return to something resembling “normal” could be on the horizon, those at artificial intelligence–based technology developer PhysIQ see that the landscape has been reshaped since early 2020.
“Digital medicine has been evolving but a lot of what’s been done has been done in an exploratory capacity,” PhysIQ CCO Chris Economos told MassDevice. “COVID-19 has definitely changed that.”
In the throes of the pandemic in September, PhysIQ was among a number of companies to receive government contracts to aid in the battle against COVID-19.
Economos called the recent shift toward digital health as a representation of what companies like PhysIQ have set out to do. With the opportunity to demonstrate how its technologies can move healthcare forward, PhysIQ found itself helping to address a global pandemic.
The company’s latest step forward was last month’s announcement that it is collaborating to license its AccelerateIQTM platform with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson Unit. The partnership will see the licensing of Chicago-based PhysIQ’s AccelerateIQTM to Janssen so it can deploy it to collect data across its clinical studies through a range of its wearable biosensors, while also utilizing PhysIQ’s portfolio of FDA-cleared digital biomarkers and its medical-grade platform to transform raw data into clinical insight.
“I think a really important piece here is that this isn’t only exciting for PhysIQ but for our industry in general,” Economos said. “Digital has rapidly accelerated or expanded during COVID, but what this particular collaboration and deal signals is that, for Janssen, they realized that this is not something that’s just relegated to exploration anymore. They needed something that was really going to scale across the enterprise. For all of us involved in digital, I think that’s a really exciting thing.”
Economos describes PhysIQ’s platform as device-agnostic, as its capabilities range from working with wrist-base wearable sensors to patch-based wearable sensors. The company’s aim is to provide an option that works with any kind of sensor a customer might need.
The company’s focus is to use a particularly unique IT platform to collect data over days, weeks, months and even years before its portfolio of digital biomarkers or analytics take the sensor data and produce clinical insight. Machine learning and AI are then used to take the data streams and turn them into something useful for researchers or clinicians.
“There’s multiple dimensions of scalability, one of which is being device agnostic and the other obvious one is being able to handle patient volume,” Economos said. “There are others like the ability to deploy new algorithms as they come online. This is what I believe Janssen was focused on when they selected our platform. They’re looking for what I’ll call a future-proof platform that is flexible and can scale as their needs scale across the enterprise. That scalability is a really important piece in all this.”
PhysIQ’s partnership with Janssen will potentially see its platform placed across all the platforms the J&J unit works in, including neuroscience, immunology and oncology — and possibly even with the company’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, one of just three vaccines authorized for emergency use by the FDA in the U.S.
Janssen can utilize the platform to collect real-world data through the sensors on the R&D side to support clinical development and drug development, as well as on the commercial side with the integration of digital medicine into their commercial strategies, Economos said.
The groundwork has been laid for the partnership to utilize PhysIQ’s platform in the present, with eyes set on what can be done in the future, too.
“The long-term will see a convergence of using digital for drug development and pharma use cases with actual patient care,” Economos said. “Pharma is one part of our business but we also sell our solution to what we call the healthcare vertical, where we sell it to payors and healthcare systems.
“The things we’re focused on or the things that pharma is focused on in terms of using wearable sensors in a clinical context, we’ll see in actual patient care. That’s one of the things we’re really excited about — this evolution from using sensors in R&D to using sensors to support patients as they’re on drugs and they’re accessible by the healthcare provider as well.”
Scott Thielman, the CTO of product development consultancy company Product Creation Studio, told MassDevice that players in the space like Janssen are looking for platforms like what PhysIQ offers: those that can are “far abstracted beyond the concepts of cloud, edge processing and wireless links” upon which they can build.
“Collection and management of clinical study data is an incredibly important operation that happens to lie just outside of the development activities that most drug companies really want to focus their internal resources on,” Thielman said. “The data itself is a precious, high-value asset so it makes sense for players like Janssen to choose a best-in-class partner platform. There will continue to be a role for PhysIQ and similar companies that bring insights to their customers rather than just data aggregation. “
While the circumstances were unpredictable amid the pandemic, Economos said the company has been excited to showcase the ways in which PhysIQ can address the unmet needs that have been presented over the past 14 months or so.
Pairing with Janssen to demonstrate the effectiveness of its platform only further highlights the medical space’s move toward digital therapeutics.
“There’s the obvious implications of establishing an enterprise deal with such a large organization, but beyond just the platform piece, we also see the opportunity to collaborate on co-development of new digital biomarkers,” Economos said. “Working with our pharma clients to accelerate our ability to get new digital biomarkers to market faster.
“By virtue of the number of therapeutic areas that Janssen focuses on and the number of patients that interact with their products, this is a really exciting opportunity to advance digital medicine alongside them.”