Smart Pills Are Here To Stay – An Interview With etectRx CEO, Harry Travis

The term digital pills might just sound like the latest hype from Silicon Valley - but it isn’t. The first of such devices dates back to 1957, and the technology had been developing since. 

The fall of healthcare startup unicorn Proteus (of which we pointed out that it’s not the tech but the company that failed) gives us an edge now to talk about the mysterious world of digital pills. Thus, besides having an article on the TMF website, I’ve asked Harry Travis, President & CEO of etectRx to share some promising insights of the technology.

Digital health company etectRx aims to advance patient medication adherence and improve ingestion tracking technology. The company’s flagship product, the ID-Cap System is an ingestible event marker: a gelatin capsule with an ingestible sensor that transmits signals to a wearable reader, which sends the data to a smartphone-based app and secure cloud-based server to enable reliable tracking of ingestion events.

etectRx has seen very promising results with its technology – can you tell me what those are, and what is the current focus of the company? Has COVID affected your work?

etectRx’s focus right now is securing partnerships with innovative pharmaceutical companies looking to do pilot studies with us. We are currently in a variety of discussions with pharmaceutical companies that are interested in successful remote patient monitoring to improve patient outcomes for their oral medications. We currently have three NIH-funded research studies underway, and recently completed an HIV-prevention study with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in partnership with The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health in Boston, in which our technology recorded medication ingestions with 98 percent accuracy. 

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of being able to support patients in their homes, which has driven an increased interest in our technology! 

How can digital pills help clinical trials and currently what clinical trials you're working on? On which medical field can digital pills really make a difference and why?

With more than 1,000 clinical trials suspended since March due to COVID-19, clinical researchers have quickly moved to monitoring patients remotely instead of requiring in-person visits to a clinic. etectRx’s ID-Cap System allows patients to track how they take their medication and provide real time confirmation of medication ingestion, right from the comfort of their homes. This allows researchers to provide remote, real-time patient monitoring during clinical trials. 

The field of oral oncology therapeutics is exploding in growth and expanded utilization, with the annual global oncology drug spend expected to be more than $150 billion in 2020. Oncology trials have dominated the clinical research space with nearly twice as many trials in 2020 than any other therapeutic area, representing a significant area of investment by pharmaceutical companies. 

Traditionally, oncologists have relied on patients coming to their office or ambulatory clinic for cancer care and provider-administered medications. Today, there are many efficacious oral options for cancer treatment that are self-administered by the patient at home, and our technology provides clinicians with a solution to monitor drug adherence accurately and remotely.

How do you expect the collapse of Proteus will influence the perception of digital pills in your view? 

We are confident that smart pills are here to stay, and etectRx will play an integral role in shaping the new future of digital pills. The market-leading, long-term technology roadmap for our product is robust, with innovations on the horizon such as our system being used in wearable wristbands, and seamlessly integrating our technology into patient’s lives. Additionally, we have committed investors that are confident in the immense potential of digital pills. 

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