2021 Roundup and 2022 Predictions in Clinical Research and Health
Heading into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Baseline team at Verily embraced another year of dedicated work to expand the accessibility of clinical research. With the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations across the nation and gradual loosening of previous restrictions, the past year shined a spotlight on how technology, research, and the united efforts of everyday people drove effective solutions in healthcare.
The Project Baseline team is proud to share our top five highlights of 2021 and the inspiring contributions of our research participants who made it all possible.
1. A new understanding of mental health
After launching the Baseline Mood Study, the valuable insights we gained led to a publication in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. Serving as a helpful perspective to inform future remote-based mental health research, the study looked at the connection between smartphone usage and mental health for a 12-week period. In capturing real-world information from participants about their moods, activities, and well-being, smartphones could help provide clinicians with a more complete picture of their everyday lives.
The study also represented a shift in mindset – from subjective insights to the objective, an opportunity to quantify mental health. The results featured new ways to envision and record the daily lived experience of mental health, including the analysis of voice diaries and emoji usage, which showed correlations with symptoms of depression.
2. HLTH 2021
Our very own Dr. Amy Abernethy, President of Clinical Research Platforms and Former Principal Deputy Commissioner of the US FDA, was a headline speaker at the 2021 HLTH Conference in Boston.
The conference featured industry leaders discussing how crucial advancements in healthcare and technology are shaping the future of mental health, data platforms, and the overall health of populations.
Dr. Abernethy highlighted Baseline’s work to make remote clinical trials a reality and discussed building high-quality, long-term data sets that can open up exciting new avenues of research.
3. Returning research to our communities
Baseline strives to increase access to and education about clinical research for all our participants. This mission includes sharing their results and the stories they tell back to our community.
How do you sleep?
We distributed the results from our 2021 Sleep Mission, where we asked Baseline Health Study participants about the impact that daylight savings time had on their quality of sleep. We also hosted an event with sleep experts to provide a deep dive into understanding the results. Being well-rested has lasting impacts on our overall health, and this study helped demonstrate how important it is to pay attention to resetting our sleep habits.
COVID-19 vaccine perceptions
Marking one year since the launch of the COVID-19 Research Project, we led a Live Q&A session on the community’s perceptions, experiences, and overall thoughts about the COVID-19 vaccines.
With the results indicating that our community had concerns about the vaccines, this session included a Verily data scientist, an immunological expert, and the Verily clinical lead of health informatics as resources for in-depth knowledge and background. The panel helped answer commonly asked questions, including how soon you would be protected after vaccination, the differences between the vaccines, and whether you could still get sick after vaccination. To learn more about COVID-19 variants and vaccinations, read this Q&A with Dr. Charlie Kim, Head of Molecular Sciences at Verily.
Understanding priorities for our Gut Research Project participants
We launched the Gut Research Project to increase medical knowledge of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which affects an estimated three million American adults. At Baseline, people are at the center of everything we do – and to help people with IBD, we’re starting by getting their input on the most valuable research areas. We found that the top preferences for our community relate to medications, mental health, alternative medicine, and lifestyle/social factors.
Understanding the most pressing issues from our community is important because it helps inform the work we do to ultimately improve participants’ lives.
4. Highlighting women in STEM
Women hold 28% of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and make less than their male counterparts on average. And in order to effect change in our workplace, industry, and society, increasing the visibility of the journeys of women in STEM is essential.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we held a YouTube Live Roundtable with several members of Verily leadership including Chief Medical Officer, Jessica Mega, where they discussed their personal journeys and advice for other women interested in STEM. We also reached out to women leaders at Verily to speak about their experiences and what they want others to know about pursuing science careers. Many women shared that STEM careers don’t have to “look” like any single path. Rather, there are many ways to feed one’s curiosity, creativity, and passion through carving your own pathway in STEM.
5. Partnering with Colgate to study oral health
Oral health can have a huge impact on overall health. We launched the Oral Health Study for our Baseline Health Study participants in collaboration with Colgate-Palmolive and the University of North Carolina (UNC) to understand this link in more depth. The study focuses on the impact of different oral health practices on participants’ overall health.
The pandemic brought about a collective, heightened focus on the health of our communities and the need for continued improvements to healthcare and clinical research access. The last two years showed us we have lessons to learn across many different domains. In clinical research, it highlighted just how important it is to have high-quality data. At Baseline, we see an opportunity to support both clinical researchers and their participants by helping them generate real-world evidence from many sources.
In 2022, you're going to see us focusing on building software solutions that ease the participant journey within the context of clinical research – making sure that people are well-informed about why to be a part of a clinical research study and to make sure that the process of staying in that study is as easy as possible.
Dr. Amy Aberenethy
President, Clinical Studies Platforms
The work we've done at Baseline so far and will continue to do is centered around how we can ensure the safety and integrity of our participants' data. Their experiences, combined with the vital work of our dedicated researchers, are what drive our efforts to improve the future of clinical research every single day.