December 2, 2021
Reaching the Tipping Point. Stakeholder Buy-In and the Network Effect - Gary Hughes
CEO & Co-FounderTeckro
This week, our CEO Gary Hughes returns to the podcast to reflect on Teckro’s journey from a single product to a platform for content, communication and insights. He explains why building credibility with all clinical trial stakeholders is key to creating trust. And Gary reveals how Teckro is creating its own network effect.
"It takes a lot of buy-in from all of the stakeholders involved. You can’t just sell to one stakeholder and expect everyone else to buy into it. You’ve got to bring everyone with you."
HANNAH LIPPITT: Hello and welcome to the Totally Clinical podcast brought to you by Teckro. Totally Clinical is a deep dive into the freshest trends, big-time challenges and most excellent triumphs of clinical trials. I'm Hannah, your host. Join me as I chat with industry experts, trailblazers, thought leaders and, most importantly, the people benefiting from clinical research. So, tune in, settle back and don't touch that dial. It's time to get Totally Clinical.
HANNAH LIPPITT: This week, Gary Hughes, our CEO, returns to the podcast to delve a little bit deeper into Teckro’s transformational journey over the last six years. Hello, Gary, and welcome back! Let's start by you telling our listeners what it's like to grow a company from a single product into a platform in just a few short years.
GARY HUGHES: Well, we started with a single product for a very particular reason. We really wanted to create something that had immediate and obvious value to the stakeholders directly involved in using the product. I've seen companies approach things different ways. Some companies have gone on an acquisition spree, and they've acquired a lot of different products and services and tried to put them together to create a compelling, I guess, value proposition for a pharma company. But we are very clear given the nature of clinical trials, given the different stakeholders involved, we wanted to start with a single product that we knew would be accepted, would be easy to adopt and that could deliver real value to the stakeholders involved. And that's much harder when you're trying to present, I guess, a much more complex or comprehensive product offering with lots of different moving parts.
So we started with that sort of single product idea, you know, building a lot of what we were doing around the protocol and very much a focus on sites and site staff – those involved in day to day conduct of clinical research – but once we got traction there and we built credibility with sponsors, but also with site staff around the world and really established Teckro and the product at the time is something that only just added value, but was something that people really wanted to use as well, then there was the opportunity to really expand.
HANNAH LIPPITT: So it's an issue of trust to some degree?
GARY HUGHES: Yeah, I think that is the challenge. It's how do you bring everybody with you? And there's lots of thinking around blitzscaling and things like that where you can pump a lot of money into something and spend a lot of money in marketing and do a lot of aggressive product development and things like that, but I think that's the real challenge in clinical trials. And if you look at the technologies that have been successful, it's taken a long time for them to get to a critical mass and it does take a lot – a lot of buy-in from all the stakeholders involved – you can't just sell to one stakeholder and expect everybody else to buy into it. You've got to bring everybody with you and I think that is the challenge.
HANNAH LIPPITT: In the past, you have discussed engaging all physicians in clinical research. Why is site engagement so important and why is it important for sites to have a mobile-driven experience?
GARY HUGHES: I think for us, it was really important to be present at the point of care to be present when these key decisions are made, whether that's to enroll a patient in a trial, whether it's making a dosing decision or dose modification decision, whether it's managing a toxicity, you really want to be there at the point of care. You want to ensure your platform is usable and useful in those critical minutes that physicians or nurses have with the patient. So mobile-first for us is really important. It's really being in the pocket of every member of the site team, but also right across all the stakeholders involved in the clinical trial whether you're a CRA, whether you're a medical monitor, whether you're a member of the study team.
HANNAH LIPPITT: I've heard you talk about network effects when it comes to Teckro. Could you explain more about this for our listeners?
GARY HUGHES: The simple definition of it really is that I guess the more value a user gets from a service really depends on the number of users of that service and Facebook and Uber and companies like this are kind of simple examples that everybody gets. I think Facebook famously had something like seven friends, that they knew if seven of your friends were on Facebook there was enough content and communication going on between that group to draw more and more friends in. And that was the tipping point.
And if you think about it with companies like, say, Uber or Lyft or companies like that, it's almost like the number of riders and the number of drivers. You know, the more riders it's going to attract, the more drivers, the more drivers, the more routes that become available, and you can see that sort of network effect and how it can really take off and move very quickly. And we've seen the same thing with Teckro.
I mean, the number of sites on Teckro and the sites starting to move towards digital first in terms of their interactions with the trial and having a digital interface for most of their interactions with the trial... that's attracting more and more sponsors. More and more sponsors is speeding more and more sites, and you start to see how it works very, very well. So it's an interesting phenomenon to see us in action when it works, but it's obviously a very positive outcome when you do start to reach that sort of critical mass and those tipping points where you do have enough users and enough of that momentum to drive those network effects.
HANNAH LIPPITT: Decentralized clinical trials continue to capture coverage in the clinical trial space. Are they a fad or are they here to stay and how does Teckro work in the decentralized clinical trials model?
GARY HUGHES: I definitely don't think it's a fad, and you can see sort of the value from a patient perspective as to why decentralization is a good direction to go in. The real question is: “How much can technology stand up on its own to deliver a decentralized experience versus relying heavily on services to make it happen?” And can some of what we're seeing today really happen at scale? Can you manage a 300 or 400 patient study across 20 countries and a truly decentralized setting? And not just one, but look at the tens of thousands of clinical trials that are working today.
I think there are also a lot of question marks over what the future of the technology will be like; things like eCOA and eConsent and even what we call telehealth. But there's really, you know, video conferencing capability. The constituent parts of most of these technology offerings have been around for a long, long time. We were working on eConsent solutions in our previous company over 10 years ago... eCOA and ePRO are not new ideas. They've been around for a long time, so simply putting them together doesn't automatically give you a decentralized trial capability. These have been around for a long time, and so it'll be interesting to see just how services scales to meet the needs of decentralization and where the technology ultimately has to go to make this work at scale, beyond consent and beyond eCOA and sensor data.
I think for us, we just see it very much creating this one truly digital platform that can scale for all trials. So whether it's as we've talked before about things like – regardless of the phase, regardless of the therapeutic area and regardless of the session, whether it's in clinic, whether it's at the patient's home or in some other hybrid location – we think our platform can really provide that link between all the key stakeholders and really facilitate the transfer of information and the communications that need to happen as if the patient was in a clinic.
HANNAH LIPPITT: Teckro’s experts on-demand value proposition is a new concept in the life sciences industry, despite being prevalent in other industries from business consulting to finance. Why is this idea important for our industry?
GARY HUGHES: It really comes down to time with the patient, and again, that really doesn't matter, again, where the setting is, whether it's in clinic or whether it's remote or at the patient's home or wherever the case might be. We're still dealing with minutes and seconds to make the right decision and really, if you look at some of the drugs that are being developed, you know, people talk a lot about precision medicines and trying to find certain patient populations, which is getting harder and harder to do for some of these drugs, but also just the nature of these drugs, you know, can be quite powerful, significant side effects and toxicities, which need to be managed according to the protocol. And you just don't want to leave anything to chance.
You really want to ensure that whatever the question is – and we've always believed that in Teckro that in clinical trials, everything starts with a question – whatever that question is, it just doesn't go unanswered. You're always trying to present the nurse, the physician, the sub investigator or principal investigator, of the CRA, the medical monitor or whoever it might be... you want to ensure that people have access to the most up to date information. You want to ensure you're able to connect these experts in seconds when the patient is present, when a decision needs to be made.
And when you look at the failure rate, if you like in clinical trials, the time and the expense it takes to bring a drug to the clinical trial process that the kind of very, very high failure rate in terms of the number of drugs that actually make it through, you really look at things like minutes and seconds and access to experts as being a critical piece that we may have overlooked for far too long. And that's really what we want to try and facilitate with Teckro: immediate access to the protocol, immediate answers in seconds from the available documentation, but also immediate access to experts who can answer your question in real time and do it in a way that gives complete oversight and transparency to the sponsor companies.
And we think experts on demand is a natural extension of the technical proposition has been to us. It's just vitally important to the success of any trial and also to the safety of any trial. So it's really important for the industry and glad that we're able to bring something like this to our customers and to our partners as well.
HANNAH LIPPITT: And finally, six years is a great milestone for Teckro. What's next when you look on the horizon?
GARY HUGHES: Yeah well, I think we're going to continue the journey we've been on. And we're always looking for areas to, I guess, streamline, simplify, modernize clinical research. We’re talking to our customers, they want fewer and fewer vendors, they want less and less point solutions. We think we've built a unique digital infrastructure that really does connect every stakeholder, really does accelerate the pace of clinical research, that really does bring greater transparency and oversight to clinical trial processes and a lot of what's been offline to sponsor companies and to sites for many, many years is now truly digital and truly transparent via Teckro and we're going to continue on that journey, and the ultimate goal is just really, “How do you engage every physician in clinical research?” And we'll never stop until we answer that question.
So it's very much a case of business as usual, and we just keep pushing and pushing until we feel we're making the impact we know we can make as a company. And whether it's another six years or another sixty years, who knows? But we're excited by the work we're doing. We're enjoying the work. We're very engaged with what we're doing and with our customers and most importantly, with the sites, and we'll continue that work for as long as it takes.
HANNAH LIPPITT: Thank you, Gary, for delving deeper into Teckro’s expansion as an enterprise platform for sponsors, the company's trajectory over the last six years, and long-term vision. And that's your dose of Totally Clinical for all the listeners out there, you can follow Teckro on Twitter – the handle is @TeckroOfficial – LinkedIn and Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. And of course, download the Totally Clinical podcast on Apple, Spotify and Google. See you on your next visit and remember to bring your friends. Thanks for listening! Goodbye!