Lab of the future: when science and technology meet to deliver medicines faster in Europe (Guest blog)

Think of a clinical trial. What do you imagine? Maybe you think about the COVID-19 pandemic when they became the talk of news stations globally.

Perhaps you have participated in a trial or know someone who has? In the company I work for, AbbVie, we are currently running trials across Europe, involving over 17,000 patients[i].

You might think of the medicines we have available today and know that clinical trials are the key to finding out whether a molecule can one day become the life-changing medicine patients have been waiting for.

I expect in all cases you probably think of hospital beds, white lab coats and frequent visits with doctors.

But things are evolving. What I see, from behind the scenes, is we are at a unique moment, combining the incredible advances in scientific knowledge and technology to deliver medicines faster. How are we doing this? By adapting the traditional laboratory, taking advantage of technology in new ways.

The Lab of the future.

In doing so, we can use our trials to highlight the burden of disease and the unmet medical needs of patients. Unmet medical needs that we must continue to appreciate and invest in.

I'll give you two examples. They concern the quality and standardization of patient symptoms, in order to eliminate the subjective, a potential source of error, and to obtain ever more qualitative data and therefore greater precision.

At AbbVie, we now have a digital science laboratory comprising digital health technologies that enable us to monitor patient activity with precision, simplifying their involvement in symptom measurement.

By applying biosensors and wearable technologies, we can obtain clearer information about the actual patient experience in a clinical trial. This allows us to improve our data sets and save time.

My first case is in skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, where itching can seriously compromise sleep, with patients scratching throughout the night, affecting their quality of life.[ii]

Yet collecting this data often requires patients to recall the frequency of these symptoms and rate them on a numerical scale, which poses problems of subjectivity and accuracy. My colleagues in the Digital Science team therefore used a device called ADAM - ADvanced Acousto Mechanic Sensing.

Clinical trials using the ADAM, worn by the participant, allow us to collect data in real time, while reducing the workload on participants. The result: no guesswork and improved speed of data processing[iii].

Another example is spinal arthritis, which can severely limit a person's mobility, particularly in the morning. Rather than using traditional methods such as a tape measure or requiring clinical trial participants to make frequent visits to a testing center to monitor their progress, the Digital Science team has developed an app that allows individuals to measure their range of motion at home[iv].

This is more convenient for them and allows information to be accurately captured at a time when symptoms are more likely to be most present[v].

Data captured using apps and technologies such as these allow researchers to gain a better insight into participants' experience, and more accurately track the effect of the drug. Ultimately, this results in a more robust and diverse data set.

I invite you to imagine this laboratory of the future. But you should know that it already exists. Trials of this type conducted by AbbVie using portable technology are taking place in several European countries. They exist in trials from inflammatory conditions to cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.

As science evolves, if you're just keeping up, you're already behind the curve. Developing regulatory frameworks in Europe that take account of these new data sets, and creating a sustainable environment that stimulates this investment to address a range of unmet medical needs for patients, should be at the heart of our future legislation.

As we celebrate Clinical Trials Day in 2024, I like to think that this is a compelling vision for the future of clinical research in Europe.





[i] AbbVie internal data, March 2024

[ii] Mann C, Gorai S, Staubach-Renz P, Goldust M. Sleep disorders in dermatology - a comprehensive review. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2023 Jun;21(6):577-584. doi: 10.1111/ddg.14992. Epub 2023 May 26. PMID: 37235517.

[iii] Digital Science Lab: Reshaping Clinical Research With Technology; AbbVie; March 2024; Available at:

[iv] ibid

[v] ibid

Henning Kleine

Dr Henning Kleine is Vice President, Medical Affairs, Europe, at AbbVie.
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