On episode 5 of The Future of Supply Chain Podcast, we sat down with Rust Felix, co-founder & CEO of Slope, to discuss inventory problems that exist in the clinical study industry, and how Slope is applying real-time inventory tracking to solve them. Rust studied Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics in undergrad, and then went on to get a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering. He and his brother developed predictive forecasting algorithms specifically for eCommerce, which is how Rust became interested in the supply chain. Slope is currently the only company that’s focused on fixing the clinical trial supply chain. The following are some key takeaways from our discussion.
Clinical trials are a complex, multi-stakeholder environment that lack organization. A clinical trial, the process that a drug or device goes through to see how effective it is, contains a multitude of stakeholders and materials. Between trial sponsors, study sites, monitors and CPAs, and then devices, kits, specialized medical equipment, and other assets, detail would seem to be crucial. However, the 80,000 active trials in this $65 billion a year industry is currently being run on sticky notes and spreadsheets.
Lack of proper inventory systems have study sites simultaneously overfed and starving. Data entry and analysis keep stakeholders busy, and additionally there is no solid inventory system in place. This combination creates the issue of having to rush supplies, drugs, and devices to the study site. Slope ran a global survey of study sites and shockingly found that simultaneously, 80% of study sites are overloaded with excess trial inventory, while 77% routinely experience outages that impact their patients. Some trial sponsors have utilized automatic shipping, which tends to be ineffective. It does not accurately balance the amount of supplies or patients that a study has and the amount that is being auto-shipped.
Disconnect between study sites and sponsors has huge negative implications. With sponsors unaware of supply outages at clinical trial sites, patient enrollment and retention is severely impacted, regulatory burden increases, and research is delayed. If sites do not get what they need, the entire network suffers.
Slope wanted to create something that would balance both sides of the clinical trial equation. There is no one size fits all, so they needed to look at both sides separately. Unlike others, they began by focusing on study sites first, and then sponsors. Slope built an inventory management platform that allows the study sites to record and manage all clinical trial assets and inventory across all of their trials. This system takes away sticky notes and spreadsheets, and replaces them with a platform that addresses the sites concerns as well as creates an extremely valuable data stream. The data stream and inventory organization will then be available to sponsors to allow them to address issues around under supply, excess/waste, trial planning, and making informed decisions around patient enrollment, retention, and care.
Stay tuned for an episode that builds on this knowledge and delves into Slope, inventory management systems, and the balance between sites and sponsors in clinical trials.