A data warehouse and communications platform that will link medical researchers to practising physicians, tertiary care centres and allied health professionals will be launched later this year in an effort to accelerate patient recruitment and diversity for clinical trials in the US.

The National Clinical Trial Network (NCTN), which will debut in the fourth quarter of 2013, is a collaboration between The National Health Index (NHI), a wholly–owned subsidiary of Washington, DC-based not-for-profit the National Minority Quality Forum, and software giant Microsoft Corporation.

The National Minority Quality Forum develops user-friendly, web-based disease indices, tracking prevalence and impact of diseases by zip code, while the NHI manages a comprehensive reservoir of healthcare information on both common and rare chronic diseases, drawing on a database of more than 800 million patient files.

Communications portal

The National Clinical Trial Network will provide an interactive communications portal linking researchers to physicians and other healthcare professionals whose patients may be candidates for clinical trials.

It will also incorporate a data warehouse – patient registries, biobanks and community-level health statistics – that will combine isolated data repositories into an integrated, searchable, national archive.

This will enable users rapidly to identify representative samples of risk populations who may benefit from an experimental therapy, the Forum notes.

In addition, NCTN will maintain searchable profiles of clinical research institutions, experienced clinical investigators and prospective clinical researchers. Its investigator registry will store background information on investigators, their practices and the communities they serve.

21st century venture

Michael Robinson, vice president of US. Health and Life Sciences for Microsoft, described the collaboration with the National Health Index as “truly a 21st century healthcare venture”, leveraging big data and Microsoft’s proprietary software to “give the research community a vast array” of information and communications tools.

"We fully expect NCTN to transform clinical research in the United States,” Robinson added.

The initiative was welcomed by US industry association the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

“PhRMA applauds partnership efforts such as the National Clinical Trial Network that seek to promote awareness and create connectivity that can translate into increased diversity among clinical trial participants,” commented vice president of scientific affairs Dr Salvatore Alesci.