#FoundersFriday with Zikria Syed
We are very excited to bring you a new interview for our #FoundersFriday blog series! If you’ve missed our previous posts, Founders Friday is a platform in which we interview the founders of different businesses, asking them to share their advice for others and their perspective on the industry as a whole.
Zikria Syed is the CEO and cofounder of VitalTrax. He has accumulated a vast amount of experience at world-leading companies like Microsoft and Siemens Medical Systems and is a serial entrepreneur who has founded, and successfully grown and exited multiple companies.
What is VitalTrax?
VitalTrax is a technology company with the mission to transform patients’ experience in clinical trials. To that end, VitalTrax delivers a cloud-based solution that enables patients to participate in clinical trials.
We recently launched Wing (www.patientwing.com), a clinical trial network that connects patients to clinical trials. Wing makes it very easy for patients to find and apply to clinical trials. Similarly, it allows pharmaceutical companies and clinical trial sites to publish and promote their trials and reach out to patients.
What were you doing before creating VitalTrax?
Prior to VitalTrax, I founded and led another technology company, NextDocs. NextDocs grew to become a multi-national serving five of the top ten pharmaceutical companies. I sold NextDocs in 2015.
What needs to change in Clinical trials? How does VitalTrax solve these problems?
The promise of new treatments has never been greater. Advances in sciences such as personalized medicine and gene therapy are giving hope to millions by potentially creating cures for untreatable diseases such as cancer and rare diseases. Currently, there are over 5,000 new medicines under development and over 55,000 clinical trials running. This has created a huge challenge because while new potential treatments and clinical trials are on a rapid rise, the number of patients available to participate in clinical trials has remained stagnant. In fact, lack of patients is the #1 reason for clinical trial delays and failures.
The good news is that the industry recognizes the need to address this problem and there are several efforts underway to increase awareness of clinical trials. Lilly Trial Guide is a good example of how a pharmaceutical company is increasing awareness of clinical trials. While these efforts by pharmaceutical companies are critical, a more central approach to patient enrollment is needed. There needs to be a clearinghouse or a marketplace for clinical trials where patients can find and enroll in trials and sponsors and sites can publish and promote their trials. This is where we come in with our Wing Clinical Trial Network. It is a first of its kind offering that acts as a marketplace – enabling patients to find and enroll in trials. The solution works a bit like OpenTable, where patients find trials that meet their needs and request/book appointments based on available times published by the research sites for screening visits.
For this marketplace to work effectively, we need to treat patients as consumers, who want to make informed choices about their healthcare (in this case, a clinical trial they may be participating in), expect assistance in the transaction (think Amazon one click ordering) and finally, want to know who they are dealing with.
Can you see the technologies you are creating at VitalTrax being applied to other industries within the medical and pharma sphere?
In most industries today, consumers have tools to manage their transactions. Think e-commerce, banking and travel. In each of these industries, consumers can conduct most of their transactions online. That is not the case in healthcare. Our mission is to enable that type of experience in clinical trials where patients are in control of their choices of trials and participation. We think that our work in clinical trials which is a specialized healthcare scenario can be leveraged in the broader healthcare industry.
As the founder of a business, what are you most proud of?
Without a doubt, the team. We have an amazing team with endless passion and drive to make a positive impact on healthcare by changing how clinical trials are run. Our team collectively has dozens of years of experience in building secure, compliant and scalable technology solutions for the pharmaceutical industry. But what makes us special is our experience in building consumer-oriented applications. We think that is exactly what is needed to build solutions that can bring patients into clinical trials.
You have an extensive history creating companies, what advice would you give those who have an idea but don’t know how to develop it?
Market validation is perhaps the most important aspect of developing a new business. First, you need to make sure there is a market. Second, you need to understand how your offering is differentiated from others and why someone will choose it over existing choices.
Where do you see VitalTrax in five years?
We want to measure our success in terms of the impact we make. I hope that our work in improving patients experience in clinical trials leads to a world where patients actively participate in clinical research as partners.
Thanks to the University City Science Center for introducing us to some great entrepreneurs that featured in our Founder Friday blog series!