Seeing the landscape of pharmaceutical development like never before

Written By:

July 9, 2022

The scientists and strategists working in pharma R&D know the value of having good data on the clinical trial landscape. Without reliable data about what has been done and what is happening now, it is impossible to chart an efficient path forward or predict what will happen next.

Unfortunately, clinical trial data is often hard to access and siloed in disparate databases. Even if you can get your hand on these datasets, they are often incomplete or so poorly structured that making sense of the scientific landscape remains daunting.

This is exactly the kind of the problem that Prism was created to solve. Back in 2019, our co-founder, Spencer Hey, published an article in STAT News that demonstrated an entirely new way of looking at clinical trial data, which he called the ”bird’s eye” perspective. In a nut shell, he had developed an algorithm that automatically normalized data of more than 13,000 clinical trial registration records from the world’s top-10 pharmaceutical companies and plotted these on one giant bubble graph.

We encourage everyone to go read that article in full as it goes into some detail about what this real time approach to analyzing and visualizing clinical trial metadata can do for the industry.

For this post, however, we want to emphasize how the innovation in this work exemplifies Prism’s ethos.

We believe that unwieldy spreadsheets, disconnected databases, and static graphs in slide presentations are relics of an outdated way of thinking and are not the best tools for good decision-making. When you are making a decision, like planning a new clinical trial, you should have the entire trial landscape at your fingertips. With a click of a mouse, you should be able to drill down on any individual study. With a scroll of the mouse wheel,  you should be able to zoom out, examine patterns and gaps, and strategically plan your next steps.

As new data is produced, it should be immediately integrated into your dashboard so that your analysis is always up to date.

When you meet with your team, you should know that everyone is on the same page, because everyone has the requisite tools and can literally point their mouse to exactly where they disagree or why that they think a particular strategy is best.

Last year, this article got the attention of a health care and regulatory policy maker at the White House who reached out to talk about how he thought the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could benefit from Prism’s help. During that conversation, he made a comment that we hear all the time at Prism:

“This is awesome— but how does it not already exist?”

There is a lot packed into the question, but part of the answer is that some of the most powerful innovations seem obvious in retrospect. Indeed, once you have seen a real-time “bird’s eye view” on the pharma R&D landscape, it would be foolish to plan future trials without this perspective. (Which is not to say that the bird’s eye view answers all questions; only that it provides vital context that would be foolish to ignore.)

In sum, this STAT News article was an early glimpse at the power of Prism’s approach and technology. We pride ourselves on building tools and solutions that don’t just solve problems, they fundamentally transform how people think and work. When our clients look back, we want them to wonder how they ever did without.


Hey SP. A bird’s-eye view of clinical trials provides new perspectives on drug research and development. STAT NEWS. 2019.

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