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Supporting Clinical Trials in Asia-Pacific With IQVIA Connected Intelligence™

An interview with Dr. Senthil Sockalingam, Head of IQVIA Biotech, JAPAC & Chief Medical Officer, APAC, IQVIA, on IQVIA’s expansion in the Asia-Pacific, its new innovative approach, Connected Intelligence™, and what it will mean for Asia going forward.

Fuelled by requirements for new innovative medical products, ageing populations, and growth in demand in developing economies, development in the global pharmaceutical sector is expected to persist, and more prominently in the Asia-Pacific. According to a report by Frost & Sullivan, the Asia-Pacific region is on track to record the fastest growth in contract research organisation (CRO) services, at almost 15 per cent annually and will make up 20 per cent of the global CRO market by 2022.

To support the clinical development needs, IQVIA announced its expansion of IQVIA Biotech in Japan and Asia-Pacific (JAPAC) earlier in May 2021 to deliver integrated clinical and commercial solutions for its partner biotech and emerging biopharma companies. Here, we have Dr. Senthil Sockalingam, Head of IQVIA Biotech, JAPAC & Chief Medical Officer, APAC, IQVIA, to share more about how IQVIA Biotech’s new approach, IQVIA Connected Intelligence™, is addressing the difficulties in running clinical trials and how its expansion in JAPAC will advance human health.

Clinical trial sites within Japan and Asia-Pacific have increased over 40 per cent each year on average. What is the reason behind this trend and why is it important to have clinical trials centred within the Asia-Pacific?

JAPAC is an increasingly important location for clinical trials. The region accounts for close to 60 per cent of the world’s population and presents high disease burdens, fast-improving infrastructure, clinical trial recruitment and regulatory efficiencies, globally leading data management innovation, and, increasingly, greater government support of clinical research.

Clinical trial sites set up by biotech and biopharma companies in JAPAC have increased by over 40 per cent each year on average, compared to just 11 per cent across the rest of the world. There are a lot of biotech companies coming to JAPAC to run their clinical programs and wanting to launch their drugs in the region given the attractive market dynamics. With the growth of the region and the globalisation of drug development, especially around emerging biopharma (EBPs), it was a good time to launch IQVIA Biotech in JAPAC.

JAPAC is the preferred destination for clinical trials due to its potentially large patient population, high efficiencies and attractive operational costs. Overall, trials involving sites in Asia-Pacific have resulted in a higher median recruitment rate and reduced recruitment periods when compared to trials in the USA, as well as the worldwide median. Doctor visits, medical treatments, and procedures tend to cost less in Asian countries and rapid start-up and recruitment phases reduce the risk and costs of needing to open new sites or extending studies to meet timelines.

What are some difficulties in designing and running clinical trials?

Some examples of challenges in JAPAC revolve around the complex and diverse regulatory environments in the region, including clinical trial regulatory timelines, which are in some cases difficult to predict and vary within the region. In addition, there are diverse regulatory and clinical development requirements, as well as language differences. This is where IQVIA Biotech’s flexible and streamlined development and operational approaches, coupled with deep local expertise and excellent site networks, are a value add to the needs of dynamic and fast-moving emerging biotech and biopharma companies as we have the experience and expertise to navigate through these challenges.

How does IQVIA Connected Intelligence™ work to address these difficulties?

IQVIA Connected Intelligence™ makes intelligent connections for customers to ensure we are finding the best possible solution to accelerate their innovation. Drawing on IQVIA’s unparalleled data and advanced analytics, IQVIA Biotech creates intelligent connections to deliver powerful insights and help customers accelerate clinical development and commercialisation of innovative medical treatments.

By making significant investments and commitments to the healthcare system, IQVIA Biotech has strategically housed its regional headquarters in Singapore and offices in 15 countries. We have specialised teams collaborating across 16,000+ sites, to provide custom-built, fit-for-purpose clinical and commercial solutions specifically tailored to fit the unique needs of dynamic and fast-moving emerging biotech and biopharma companies in JAPAC.

Besides IQVIA Connected Intelligence™, how else does IQVIA drive human health forward?

Connected Intelligence™ is our innovative approach to enabling life sciences customers to discover powerful new insights, drive smarter decision-making, and get treatments to patients faster.

Solutions like IQVIA Biotech are another way of driving healthcare forward by developing customised solutions to meet the unique needs of subsets of customers. IQVIA Biotech provides tailored clinical development expertise and highly customised solutions for the distinct needs of emerging biotech and biopharma client partners. IQVIA Biotech provides the hands-on attention of a smaller organisation but with the significant benefits of IQVIA’s unparalleled data, advanced analytics, and technology solutions to accelerate innovation.

In addition to our clinical solution, our offerings also include asset valuation and due diligence, drug development strategy and analytics, launch strategy and planning to help develop a market-backed, evidence-driven commercial plan. Our local and global experts provide actional insights and resources to help accelerate commercial success by offering Contract Sales and Medical Solutions to provide new capabilities by building and deploying contract sales and/or medical teams and freeing up resources for more innovation. We are therefore able to offer customers an entire suite of end-to-end services.

With IQVIA’s launch within the Asia-Pacific, what can we look forward to in the coming years?

Biotech companies have increasing global aspirations, and demand is also growing from global emerging customers for delivery in this region and we look forward to supporting their needs through IQVIA Biotech.

IQVIA Biotech’s offerings are dedicated to removing the complexities in the way of emerging biotech and biopharma companies and [are] specifically designed to meet their regional and global aspirations. Our clinical development team brings expertise from two decades of planning and executing clinical trials exclusively for biotech companies.

The ongoing pandemic has forced us to virtualise and do things differently. Sales and scientific engagement with healthcare providers have virtualised, allowing broader outreach and faster feedback, [an] adaptation of education, and quicker understanding of the commercial value of a product. This helps companies make more data-driven decisions, and gain more exposure to innovative therapeutics, which are driven out of biotech. We are constantly monitoring these developments and adjusting our execution plans to provide bespoke solutions and meet the distinct requirements of customers in light of these challenges.

Partnering will be critical going forward and in JAPAC, IQVIA pays special attention to ensuring that our partnering and delivery teams have the cultural/language capabilities appropriate to their EBP partners and the countries/regions involved in each respective development-launch program. The expectations to deliver on unmet medical needs – as well as continuing to innovate in new business models – is paramount.

With a wide variety of outsourcing models now well established in the industry, emerging biopharma organisations can explore a host of arrangements with varying levels of engagement and integration. Fully partnered options can improve integration of partners’ processes and technology, help ensure resource and development forecasting and planning through earlier engagement, enhance real-time escalation of issues and more swift resolutions, and provide clearer accountability for outcomes leading to significantly improved predictability and downstream productivity. [APBN]

About the Interviewee

Dr. Senthil Sockalingam is head of IQVIA Biotech in Japan-Asia Pacific as well as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for IQVIA Asia Pacific based in Singapore. Dr. Senthil is a physician by training, acquiring an MBBS degree from the University of Malaya and practising in Malaysia before joining the industry.

In his current role, he leads IQVIA’s specialised clinical development services for the Biotech sector across Japan-Asia Pacific. In addition, he is overall responsible for the safety and ethics of IQVIA clinical development projects in the Asia Pacific region. Before joining IQVIA, Dr. Senthil led clinical development and medical affairs for several pharmaceutical companies in the region.