Q&A: Clinical trials

Q&A: talking clinical trial tech and acquisitions with Medidata

Medidata's clinical trial tech is used in approximately half of all life science research products around the world. Now, the company has been acquired by Dassault Systèmes, in a merger that could be transformative for the medtech and pharma industries. Chloe Kent speaks to three of Medidata’s key players to find out more.


assault Systèmes acquired Medidata for approximately $5.8bn in October 2019, connecting its 3DEXPERIENCE platform with Medidata’s clinical trial software. The 3DEXPERIENCE is set to enhance the way clinicians are able to research, develop and manufacture a life science product, as well as help to monitor its clinical deployment. The 3DEXPERIENCE creates a ‘digital twin’ of a product through which its metrics can be measured and assessed, which can help predict and optimise its performance in the real world.

Chloe Kent met up with Medidata co-founders and co-CEOs Tarek Sherif and Glen de Vries, as well as EMEA general manager Christian Hebenstrait to find out more about how they see the merger impacting the future of the company and the daily lives of patients.

Tarek Sherif

Glen de Vries

Christian Hebenstreit

Chloe Kent

How far along in the process is your merger with Dassault Systèmes?

Tarek Sherif

We’re acting as an independent subsidiary. There’s integration work that's begun, but it's going to take some time and it is being done in a very thoughtful way. Clearly you want to get the best of both organisations, so you don't kind of just push them to together on day one, and we were a pretty mature organization when Dassault Systèmes acquired us.

Glen de Vries

Just like Medidata as its own standalone platform, 3DEXPERIENCE is a place where you go and do your work. All those providers, the practitioners, all the different people who are working, can log into the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and see their data, their tasks, their reports, whatever it is they're doing the same way you go log into Gmail. The reason that the word ‘experience’ is important is because the point of the platform is to give everybody the ability to visualise, to share, to have something that gives us a combined view of what it is that we're trying to accomplish.

How is Medidata integrating Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform into its work?

Glen de Vries

Many people think of Medidata, prior to the Dassault Systèmes acquisition, as a software-as-a-service transactional company for dealing with clinical trial data, which is absolutely true. But really, the reason people come to us is to generate evidence. We go from the moment that you decide you’re going to try a new therapy on people to the point that you have a sufficient set of evidence to go to a regulator. We also do some work once you've gotten the approval around analytics for real world data, looking at outcomes and at how drugs are being commercialised.

There are ways to manage portfolios of different compounds on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform already. There are capabilities on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform that go from designing and 3D modelling a medical device, but also the 3D modelling around what a molecule might need to look like and how you might attack a certain target on a pathway in a particular cell. All that will start to integrate with what we do from a research perspective. I actually think that that's going to be hugely valuable for the world of life sciences, because we'll discover that there are a lot of things that are connected, that we weren't able to connect, when we were just doing this as a silo research organisation versus original lab data.

The logistical components of what’s on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform are also exciting to us. There is an ingredient that is going into a lot of these cell therapies, and the ingredient is the patient. We retrain people’s immune systems to attack their cancers. The logistics around that – not just the manufacturing – are something that's going to be required to deliver a complete tool to healthcare practitioners.

Tarek Sherif

Look at the supply chain for an aircraft or an automobile. If you make a design change, that’s going to flow all the way through to your subcontractors and your inventories. Right now, there’s no mechanism for doing that in pharma because you haven’t needed it, but if you’re doing complex biologics and you’re getting inputs from the patient and you make a decision about design change, how’s that ever going to scale unless you have a system that connects all of it?

How can this benefit patients at the end of the process?

Glen de Vries

If you look at the life sciences industry as it has evolved, it used to really be based on an epidemiological view of what ‘good’ looks like – if I could make my drug work for 40% of people, that was great. Now, we’re moving into a world where we’re much more focused on the individual.

What is the data that we’re going to collect from a person? How are we going to use that ethically, to make sure they get the right therapy at the right time? How are we going to measure that the therapy was actually successful? That data is going to be used in a continuous learning cycle. We’re going to figure out that a drug worked for one person and not another, and use that to figure out whether a third person should get the drug. That feedback cycle is something that I don't really think has existed in the world of healthcare, and certainly isn't the way life sciences companies used to work. But pretty much all of our clients are sitting here trying to figure out how to make that world reality now, to retool themselves in the kind of digital age. We’re that digital infrastructure.

Over 2020, where does Medidata see the Dassault Systèmes merger taking the company?

Christian Hebenstreit

Medidata and Dassault Systèmes are linked by a shared vision to build sustainable innovation that will improve people’s lives. With the acquisition now closed, Medidata, together with Dassault Systèmes, will continue to pioneer digital transformation in life sciences in the age of personalised medicine and patient-centric experience.

With the bigger footprint, greater collaborative opportunities and even larger resource pool that we now have, we can do more to achieve our ultimate goal in a shorter period of time. That’s incredibly exciting for us and means we’ve never been in a better position to realise our vision of bringing the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. This is the ambition and journey we have set for ourselves for the time to come.