Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar has announced that ICON plc, a Dublin-based global provider of drug development and commercialisation services to pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, has been awarded €4 million in R&D support administered by Enterprise Ireland to further enhance its data solutions and decentralised clinical trial technology.

Hybrid and decentralised trials

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the clinical research industry’s move to hybrid and decentralised trials, requiring researchers and regulatory bodies to adapt to the ways participants live their connected and mobile lives.

As the most advanced healthcare intelligence and clinical research organisation in the industry, ICON will utilise the funding to further invest in the build-out of its world-class technology and data solutions architecture. The support will promote broad clinical research participation while also delivering real-time access to data, higher levels of security, and improved timelines and reduced costs for customers.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD said: “This funding will go into research and development in digital health technology and data analytics. The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the importance of both areas. With its roots in Dublin, ICON has grown into a global team of 38,000 dedicated employees. It is a real success story.”

The R&D support will help development of tech-enabled systems that provide greater flexibility and reduce the burden felt by clinical trial participants. In addition to visiting sites and meeting with trial investigators when needed, clinical trial participants should also have the choice to utilise virtual visits with their care teams, file eConsent forms, and report outcomes on mobile and wearable devices as part of their clinical trial experience. These options, combined with real-time data availability and analysis, improve participant retention, and reduce the timelines and costs for trial sponsors.

Plans are already in the works to invest in resources such as additional data sources, advanced analytical systems and digitisation, patient-focused mobile technology, and predictive tools that integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“Clinical research has been evolving for many years, but the importance of expanding patient access to clinical research by decentralising many components through technology and data insights was never more apparent than in the last 18 months,” said Steve Cutler, ICON CEO.

Regulatory requirements

“We have to accelerate the adoption of decentralised and hybrid clinical trials to meet participants wherever they are – on their mobile devices and in their homes – while also protecting data security, ensuring the integrity of all trial data, and adhering to regulatory requirements. We are honoured to be the recipient of this R&D funding from Enterprise Ireland, which will help us advance our mission to save and improve patient lives.”

“ICON has an exceptional track record, delivering game changing clinical research solutions to the largest global biopharma and medical device companies in the world,”  said Leo Clancy, CEO, Enterprise Ireland.

“Enterprise Ireland is delighted to support ICON’s R&D and scaling agenda. Today’s announcement further strengthens Ireland’s reputation in the global value chain of innovative medicines. We look forward to continuing to work with ICON and wish the team well in their future endeavours.”