ZURICH (Reuters) – Novartis’s foray into digital technology intensified on Wednesday as the Swiss drugmaker launched a mobile-phone based app to help collect data from people participating in eye disease studies.

It is using Apple’s ResearchKit for its “FocalView” application to help researchers track ophthalmic disease progression by collecting data directly from patients without requiring them to travel to a doctor.

As Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan focuses the Basel-based company on innovative medicines via acquisitions like this month’s $8.7 billion takeover of U.S.-based AveXis, he is also plowing resources into digital technology in a bid to boost trial success, save time and cut costs.

In March, Narasimhan announced separate plans for up to 10 remote clinical trials by 2022 using U.S. partner Science 37’s mobile technology.

“Optimizing digital technology in research and development, particularly in ophthalmic disease, could have a marked impact on the quality of the data we capture,” Bertrand Bodson, who as chief digital officer was elevated to Novartis’s executive committee this year, said in a statement.

“We believe apps like FocalView…can help accelerate the development of treatments.”

Since patients with eye problems may face mobility issues, Novartis said this app could reduce the hassle of collecting reliable data.

Apple’s ResearchKit is an open-source software tool designed to give scientists a new way to gather information on patients by using their iPhones. Several top research institutions have already developed applications, including Stanford University School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College. [reut.rs/2JodvEF]


Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields


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