Triall’s journey started 4 years ago in Amsterdam, at a small business hub just east of the Amstel river. From this location, a company called CR2O had been coordinating clinical trial projects as a contract research organization (CRO) for several years, engaging with hospitals and pharmaceutical developers in clinical trial operations on a daily basis. Several of the future Triall co-founders were working with CR2O at that time.
Witnessing industry needs in daily practice
It had become clear that clinical trial complexity and digitalization were a growing cause of industry pain points. Projects had become more and more complex over the preceding years, involving many different specialized parties and a multitude of (often isolated) software systems. Moreover, the industry had been digitalizing at a rapid pace, and projects were becoming increasingly data-heavy as a result. Lack of clinical trial oversight, data integrity, and auditability presented a growing concern for all industry stakeholders.
Around this time, cryptocurrencies and other early applications of blockchain technology were starting to emerge and caught the interest of the CR2O-affiliated members of Triall’s future founding team. Could blockchain provide a tool for combatting the issues we were witnessing in clinical research?
A serendipitous encounter
Five kilometers to the west at a university campus, another part of our future founding team had turned to blockchain technology in a somewhat serendipitous way. For years, they had been conducting and publishing academic research on barriers to the development of vaccines and therapeutics. One of their key research projects focused on the case of disease outbreak management and vaccine innovation, for which serious issues were identified that related to data sharing and international research collaboration. On a return trip from the San Francisco bay area, one of Triall’s future co-founders was sat next to a true Silicon Valley tech evangelist. The 9-hour flight from SFO to Amsterdam provided quite the time for an elevator pitch about the potential of blockchain.
Unaware of the growing blockchain enthusiasm at CR2O, this part of Triall’s future founding team set out to unravel and publish about the promises and challenges of blockchain and related technologies for the innovation barriers they had identified.
Fast-forward 3 years, their research appeared in Science Magazine, marking the first time that emerging open blockchain standards such as Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) and Verifiable Credentials (VCs) were covered in a top-tier scientific journal.
Joining forces: the establishment of Triall
It only was a matter of time before we found out about each other’s activities. Several of us had known each other for a long time, working together across a range of ventures in the Healthcare and Life Sciences domains. The idea for Triall, as a vessel for translating the strengths of blockchain technology to the specific problem case of clinical trials, got shape over a range of initial brainstorming sessions and ultimately led to the formal incorporation of Triall.
During those early days, we linked up with as many industry stakeholders as we could to obtain feedback on our project ideas. Our close ties with CR2O were tremendously helpful in this respect. Ideas were bounced off of people that were involved in clinical operations on a daily basis. This allowed us to quickly iterate towards high-level sketches for blockchain-integrated clinical trial software solutions, in which we specified key functional, non-functional, technical, and UX/UI requirements.
In parallel, conversations with ‘Big Pharma’ professionals confirmed that the issues we were targeting were not only hampering smaller industry players, but impacted the entire industry’s ability to conduct clinical trials in a time- and cost-efficient manner. Large pharmaceutical developers indicated that they were often forced to repeat research activities, having to fix data management issues when taking over projects from smaller industry in the later stages of clinical development.
Growing our development power
Our early partnership with Sphereon represented a key milestone in our development. Sphereon, a software developer specialized in business process management and document processing, had started integrating their software with blockchain in 2015. Besides having a similar vision for the translation of blockchain to enterprise solutions, they had accrued a wealth of knowledge and skills that proved invaluable to the sharpening of our concepts and development plans.
Our strategic partnership was formalized after a mutual introduction at the European Blockchain Expo in 2018, and joint work on our minimum viable product was initiated shortly after. Further strengthening our ties, Sphereon’s Niels Klomp (currently also Director of the Factom Protocol blockchain) joined our ranks as Triall CTO, ensuring the technological expertise to successfully continue down our development roadmap.
Through Sphereon, we also became acquainted with the Factom Protocol, an enterprise-grade blockchain protocol optimized for generating immutable data records. Factom’s high throughput, low fixed costs, and secure data entry aligned seamlessly with our initial product concepts. Moreover, several Factom community members were excited about our vision and decided to co-finance some of our development efforts, helping us in building towards our first minimum viable product.
Communicating the ecosystem vision: the original Triall whitepaper
Our initial concepts gradually shaped into an overarching vision for the industry: a true digital ecosystem of integrated clinical trial software solutions, providing clinical trial professionals with a place where their digital activities may start to act in concert. The ecosystem would be underpinned by an API-driven infrastructure of blockchain integrated microservices. Through this infrastructure, third-party clinical trial software (‘Clinical solution’) providers would be able to apply the strengths of blockchain technology in their service offerings. Moreover, it would allow them to securely integrate with us and other connected solutions, on a joint mission to accelerate the introduction of new vaccines and therapeutics.
The release of our original whitepaper marked an important milestone in a journey that we initiated over two years before. It summarized the results of an exciting process of collaborative research, design, and development efforts between our team of clinical trial specialists and consortium partners. We were thrilled to now be able to share our vision and plan with the outside world.
“The Triall whitepaper summarized the results of an exciting process of collaborative research, design, and development efforts between our team of clinical trial specialists and consortium partners.”
The world’s first clinical trial on blockchain
Our partnership with Sphereon truly came to fruition during the creation of our first product Verial eTMF, a blockchain-integrated clinical trial document management solution. Verial eTMF allowed users to generate verifiable proof of the integrity of their trial-related documents; a unique feature specifically designed to mitigate the growing number of data integrity issues reported in clinical trials.
Our strong ties to industry stakeholders enabled us to quickly pilot test Verial eTMF in a real-world clinical trial setting. To the best of our knowledge and to the excitement of our team, this July 2019-pilot marked the world’s first implementation of blockchain in a live and running clinical trial.
Venture-backed, ready to grow
After initiating our pilot, our team started looking for an external investor that could take our initiative to the next stage. In the first weeks of 2020 this resulted in our partnership with Dizer Capital, a US-based venture capital firm that focuses on blockchain, fintech, and clean energy. Dizer had been in the blockchain space since 2013 and its founder Yassin Mobarak perfectly complemented our team with his deep knowledge of decentralized systems and tokenized ecosystems. Triall was now supported by a knowledgeable investor with a passion for blockchain technology and strong roots in the crypto community, bringing us a step closer to realizing our vision.
Where do we stand right now?
Last year, Verial eTMF entered the market after successfully completing its pilot project. We are now extending this application with more features that strengthen its competitive positioning, such as AI-enabled automated document classification and blockchain-registered digital signatures. Next to Verial eTMF, we have numerous other solutions that we plan to develop and release, including Triall CTMS, a clinical trial management system for planning and oversight, and Atena PRM, a partnering and communication platform that will speed up clinical trial startup times.
We consider ourselves lucky with our current partners and shareholders who equip us with an extensive international network of potential clients and close ties to stakeholders and key opinion leaders in the field. This network provides us with credibility and a steppingstone for the sales of our software solutions.
“We consider ourselves lucky with our current partners and shareholders who equip us with an extensive international network of potential clients and close ties to stakeholders and KOLs in the field.”
Towards a tokenized future
To realize our ecosystem vision, we are now preparing for our token sale in which we will issue our own utility token TRL. This token sale will support us in funding the development of our core solutions and will allow us to rapidly build and grow a multi-stakeholder community.
TRL will provide access to all current and future Triall solutions. The token facilitates fair and equitable sharing of benefits and access among the stakeholders in our ecosystem by enabling P2P compensation, self-governance, and community engagement. It helps us lay the groundwork for a self-sustaining ecosystem, in which a community of clinical researchers, software developers, and other community members are incentivized to create and capture utility and value.
Registration for our token sale has opened. Want to be part of a #blockchainforgood initiative? We welcome both retail and institutional investors to register their interest by signing up through our website (triall.io).
Over the past 4 years, we have steadily grown our initiative, building an international network of partners and a global advisory board of industry experts and KOLs. We managed to develop and commercialize our first application and continue to build traction in the clinical trial domain.
While we treasure these achievements, it’s clear that our journey has only just begun. We have a long and exciting road ahead and look forward to further materializing our vision over the years to come.
Over the coming weeks we will provide more info on our token sale and everything else related to our product, team, partners, and advisors.