As clinical trials trudge along in the global effort to find effective treatments for COVID-19, an Israeli medical student (with a gold medal in computer sciences) has developed a software program to make the process move a little faster.
Daniel Iluz-Freundlich is a second-year medical student at Ben-Gurion University’s Medical School for International Health and Vice-President of Refuah Solutions Ltd, based in Manitoba, Canada.
“There are three important phases in most clinical trials,” he explains in an email interview with JewishPress.com. “Two of them — the treatment and follow up phases — are well-defined in terms of knowing in advance how long they will last.”
But the third phase is the patient enrollment phase, and this phase is much less predictable. “Investigators can never be certain how long it will take to identify enough suitable patients for their trial,” Iluz-Freundlich says.
“In fact, delays in patient enrolment account for 70-90 percent of trials failing to be completed on time and in the case of COVID-19, such delays can be fatal.”
When made aware of this important issue by his clinical investigator colleagues, Iluz-Freundlich and his team of Israeli programmers developed a software program for mobile devices that directly addresses that challenge.
The program, PI-EnrollTM, accelerates patient enrollment by providing clinical investigators with fingertip access to the trial’s inclusion and exclusion criteria, selected study information and an innovative communication network that coordinates patient enrollment and other study related activities.
In beta testing of the program, Iluz-Freundlich says one site with access to PI-Enroll enrolled “twice as many patients in one half the time required by the other study sites.”
Although originally developed for other medical conditions, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic Iluz-Freundlich quickly modified the program by inserting a unique feature that enables laboratories to directly notify principal investigators and their study coordinators of positive COVID-19 results.
He also programmed side by side comparisons of different COVID-19 trials that might be underway at the same site to ensure the right patient is enrolled into the right trial.
In addition, the program facilitates global communication between study sites that enables the various research teams to share new observations and approaches to resolving unanticipated challenges.
Due to the magnitude and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iluz-Freundlich and Refuah Solutions Ltd have been donating the program to COVID-19 researchers around the world “in order to accelerate the completion of their respective trials and thereby identify effective treatments and contribute to tikkun olam,” he says.
Tikkun olam, a Hebrew term, translates roughly as repair of the world, meaning an activity to improve the world, and bring it closer to the state of harmony for which it was created.
“What Daniel has developed will be appreciated by investigators around the world, but those who will benefit most are the unfortunate patients with severe COVID-19 infections who we hope will now receive safe and effective treatment much sooner than what would have been the case,” commented Gerald Y Minuk, CEO of Refuah Solutions Ltd.
“To date, Refuah’s app has been provided to 14 COVID-19 trials underway in Asia, Europe and North America. In an effort to increase those numbers we’ve applied to the Canadian government for support to hire more personnel, but have yet to hear back from them,” the CEO added.