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DIA 2017: (Trans)Perfectly Summarized in Song Lyrics

By Christine Morris Director, Strategy and Innovation, TransPerfect Life Sciences Solutions

Wednesday, June 28, 2017 | 5:23 PM

Chicago…our kind of town. Last week, it was also home to thousands of life sciences professionals, vendors, and experts attending the annual meeting for the Drug Information Association (DIA). TransPerfect has been a loud and proud participant in this conference for a long time. You couldn’t miss us if you tried.

This year, in addition to our traditional front-and-center booth and our “Dancing on the Ceiling” party, we brought a new toy: our Life Sciences Solutions demo lounge, showcasing our Trial Interactive technology and related service offerings.

However, we didn’t just talk at DIA—we listened, listened, and listened some more. In line with this year’s theme, “Driving Insights to Action,” our key insights are summarized below.

Everybody’s doing a brand new dance now

A surprising number of speaker and panel sessions were focused on artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, and machine learning. In 2016, these topics danced around the corners of the agenda, as most of the digitally focused sessions revolved around risk-based monitoring or visualizations.  2017 brought with it a major shift in focus to the types of technologies leading to innovation and disruption, and how for clinical research, this could be the Next. Big. Thing.

どうもありがとうミスターロボット(Dōmo arigatō misutārobotto)

Sticking with the AI theme, several sessions and panels spoke specifically about how AI is changing the way that we look at trial design, data analysis, workflows, site selection, and patient recruitment—if it’s in the research workflow, AI can redefine how it we do it.  

Vladimir Pyagay, Product Manager at TransPerfect Life Sciences, presented on the use of AI in the e-clinical space and how leveraging technology can streamline efficiency.  He provided a relatable overview to help the less technologically inclined among us, using a poignant life metaphor (ask us and we’ll share it with you!). AI learns as it goes along, getting smarter every single day. The more we use it, the better it gets.

(Hey) Fancy Pants

As expected, mHealth and wearable technology was a frequent topic of discussion—how can we utilize these data collection points in an effective and timely manner?  The ubiquitous personal fitness trackers that everyone wears on their wrists or waistbands in January (and the dedicated crowds are still wearing come June) have the ability to capture health related information, such as heart rate and sleeping patterns, on a massive scale. How can we tap into this data and apply it to research, not only to avoid unnecessary re-work, but also to give more real-time visibility into the goings-on within a trial?  How do we source and validate devices in this context, and how do we capture, store, and utilize this type of data now and in the future?

(Real) Life is a (Data) Highway

The ability to utilize data from electronic health and other relevant patient records is an up and coming focus area for our industry. From a real-world safety, efficacy, and application standpoint, randomized clinical trials often do not provide enough information for decision making. Looking at things from the bigger picture or from a cost effectiveness/efficacy standpoint on the payer side is becoming increasingly necessary. Collectively, we need to figure out how to incorporate this type of data into clinical research in a timely, compliant, high-quality, and cost-effective way.

Let’s Stay Together

Patient journey and experience is always a hot topic, and it wasn’t a surprise for us to see it take center stage this year. How do we engage patients earlier and more effectively? How can a sponsor make the experience as intuitive as possible to ensure participation and engagement?

To paraphrase Alexander Tsiaras’s keynote, “Patients’ engagement and active participation during a study critically impacts overall study timelines and success.”

A series on next generation patient recruitment strategies spoke to leveraging structured and unstructured data (e.g., AI, social media, public records, etc.) as a game changer in the recruitment space. Study and site startup strategies will need to shift as we move further into the Always-On, Always-Connected future.

As an aside, there are strong parallels between patient experience/engagement and user experience/engagement in process and software/solution engineering. The industry is increasingly seeking to capture and listen to the “voice of the patient” from an end user perspective. Seeing the potential for GEMBA walks on the patient side…

Stop, collaborate, and listen

With significant regulatory, governing body, and health authority representation, both in attendance and featured as session speakers and panelists, the conference provided an outstanding educational opportunity.  All of the Q&A type sessions were standing room only—such a wonderful sight to see such frank and collaborative communication. In an environment of ever increasing complexity, this type of open dialogue is going to be the key to paving the way forward. Specific areas of focus worth noting:  Global ICH guideline interpretation, Transparency/Clinical Trial Disclosure, PDUFA re-up, global harmonization and collaboration, Brexit, CBER, and CFDA applications.

Wrap it up – I’ll take it

In summary, the 2017 DIA Annual Meeting was packed full of informational goodies, beyond being a wonderful opportunity to network with and learn from attendees, speakers, vendors, partners, customers, and industry SMEs. Many thanks to our TransPerfect Life Sciences Marketing team—not only for designing and coordinating our participation and booth spaces, but also for (as always) throwing the vendor event of the conference. It was so much fun to jump in the “wayback” machine. However, seeing everyone in ‘80s garb did give me some pause, considering that a disturbingly high percentage of them could have literally been taken from the pages of my high school yearbook. Also, they still won’t tell me how they managed that wall of ‘80s snacks. But I digress...

Lastly, thanks to all of you who actively participated and shared insights. I am grateful for all of the amazing knowledge and collaborative spirit around me, and I am looking forward to all of us paving the path forward, together!  For more information, email or visit   

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