Right now there are many clinical trials but not enough people to fill them. CEO Jessica Branning had a passion to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s —and an entrepreneur’s sense for turning that vision into a business. ClinCloud is a company dedicated to not only connecting people with the right clinical trial, but also taking a more personalized approach.
Read the Q&A with Jessica Branning below.
WAM: You are a young CEO with an unusual vision for a business, at least to most of us. What is ClinCloud and what service do you provide for those in the Alz space?
Jessica Branning: I love science and I am by nature an entrepreneur. So I married those two passions after seeing a need to create user-friendly systems and places for people to go when they want to participate in a clinical trial, but may not know how to go about it. At ClinCloud we have overseen approximately 100 trials, of which about 65 have been Alzheimer’s or dementia related, for various pharma companies, academic centers and the NIH. Our medical staff is trained in the protocols of the various trials, which need to be highly controlled in order to be scientifically valid. Today my company operates out of two sites in Florida, and we’re proud to be part of the 400 designated testing sites around the US that administer clinical studies for Alzheimer’s research. Finding people to join trials and then holding their hands through the process makes me proud of my business every day.
WAM: You had personal reasons for wanting to focus on clinical trials for Alzheimer’s drugs. What were they?
Jessica Branning: My journey into this industry was not intended, but has become a vessel to highlight my mission in life which was prompted by having two grandparents with Alzheimer’s. No one wants to get Alzheimer’s, so I became emotionally vested in helping to find a cure for this highly stigmatized disease. But as our company has expanded, we’ve also seen the need to extend services to the family members of those living with the disease. We now provide education about Alzheimer’s prevention, as well as connecting families to community support services that can help them navigate the often confusing and overwhelming Alzheimer’s journey.
WAM: Did you think about your grandparents when you started in the business of recruiting people for clinical trials? Do you think they would have benefitted from what you are doing?
Jessica Branning: Absolutely, I come from a small rural town where seeking out even standard of care treatment was challenging. To have had the resources of a clinical trial and a team with forward-thinking approaches may have lead to an earlier diagnosis and the integration of preventative care for them. I think that could have allowed them to have a better quality of life.
WAM: What’s the biggest advantage of doing a trial with you as opposed to a large clinic site?
Jessica Branning: Most individuals think you need to be in a big city or go to an academic institution to participate in a clinical trial, both of which are great ways to participate, by the way. However, the beauty of a dedicated local research site is that it allows you to create a more inviting and less intimidating environment. Lots of people, especially in rural parts of the country, have not have had a lot of experience around big healthcare systems. Bringing a smaller but highly professional clinic to them is a more tempting way to get them to join a trial than asking them to negotiate their way through enormous buildings with endless hallways, especially after a long drive from home. Plus we create a personalized, white glove approach, even providing a lot of free services, like virtual memory screens. These smaller trial sites like ClinCloud bring sophisticated medical trials to communities that might not otherwise get the chance to participate in critical research.
WAM: Are you always able to recruit the necessary numbers for a trial, and if not, what are the most common reasons people give for not wanting to join one?
Jessica Branning: Recruitment into clinical trials has been one of the most challenging aspects in our industry, especially when trying to represent all races, ethnicities and genders. On average it takes a clinical trial 12 to 15 years to get to the FDA to present a novel therapy for Alzheimer’s, and one of the major hurdles is not having enough participants in the trials, which results in slowing down the drug discovery process.
Most people are fearful of the unknown, and to most people, a trial feels like they are on unfamiliar and scary turf. But once we educate them about the many benefits that come with extra testing and personalized care – all for free – many change their outlook. Plus we now have trials taking place and are building valuable data banks that don’t require drug interventions, just donating blood and filling out health questionnaires.
WAM: What are the most common reasons a participant will say yes to joining a trial?
1) Potential access to a treatment that can slow down the progression of AD or treat the symptoms of memory loss.
2) Access to diagnostics that can determine risk for AD.
3) Altruism – I’m doing this for future generations, for my family.
WAM: Despite the recent approvals by the FDA of Biogen and Lilly treatments, there is still no cure. Where do you find the reason for optimism in the world of Alz drug trials?
Jessica Branning: This question is my favorite to answer. It is similar to asking ourselves why do we need that new version of the iPhone or the latest new tech device, and the answer is simple, we are constantly improving. The healthcare industry and science community are constantly in a state of discovery and are constantly looking for ways to improve current treatments and diagnostics that will allow for quality of life to better through preventive actions (early diagnosis and early intervention with treatment). We haven’t found a cure yet, although with the approval of Biogen and Lilly we are well on our way, but we can’t lose momentum in research. We need people to help us move science forwards.
WAM: What do you think your grandparents would say about this career of yours?
Jessica Branning: I think they would be proud of me and say, “atta girl!”
If you would like to learn more about ClinCloud, click HERE.
If you would like to learn more about participating in clinical trials click HERE.