The Tinder for clinical trials and their participants

We spoke to Matthias Ruhri, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Probando, and asked him how he brings new ideas, how Probando works – and where he sees himself in ten years.

A sound data basis is the be-all and end-all – especially in industries like medicine. The crucial role this plays here was impressively demonstrated not least by the corona pandemic. Especially with regard to the Astrazeneca vaccine, we have seen ups and downs in the past few months, as a lack of data meant that it was initially not clear whether and to what extent a vaccination would be effective for certain age groups.

But not only in the context of the current crisis Finding the right study participants and collecting the relevant information is a major challenge. In fact, the majority of studies cannot be carried out as planned because a sufficient number of participants cannot be recruited. In order to find a digital solution for this problem, the startup Probando created a central platform. It enables study providers and participants to find each other online – like a kind of Tinder for clinical studies, so to speak. We spoke to Matthias Ruhri, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Probando, about the opportunities and goals of the new platform.

(Photo: Testing)

t3n: Matthias, you are already an old hand when it comes to founding a company. What is it about bringing new ideas to life that fascinates you?
Matthias Ruhri: Even as a child I was very inquisitive and interested in new things. That hasn’t changed in adult life either. I enjoy exchanging ideas with founders about their ideas. The spirit and the energy, especially at the beginning of a business start-up, are magical.

And how did you get involved in founding Probando in 2020?
My professional positions have shown me different perspectives – from founding and developing different companies to managing companies as an employee. I know both worlds. I have also known Manuel and Julia, two co-founders of Probando, for many years and was even allowed to teach them both at university. At some point they came to me and told me about Probando. I found the idea very interesting and watched the development for a few months and supported the team from the sidelines. In doing so, we recognized synergies that I could bring to the team, and after a while we decided together to found Probando.

What is Probando? How exactly does the platform work?
Some compare us to Tinder for studies (laughs). Ultimately, this is also correct in terms of the basic principle. Probando is an online platform that enables researchers and other clients to present their studies to a broader public, and we network them with people interested in studying. The registration process is straightforward. As a participant, I can see which studies I have already participated in on my dashboard. We have only been in real operation for nine months and can already see that many people keep signing up for new courses.

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How can Probando help revolutionize the way clinical trials are conducted?
Nine out of ten clinical studies fail to meet their recruitment goals and around 80 percent of these studies are significantly delayed as a result. In addition, the market for clinical studies is currently very opaque and analog.

What advantages does this have for research institutions, but also for study participants?
Here, on the one hand, we create faster and higher quality access to study participants for our clients and, on the other hand, prospective students see very transparently which requirements they have to meet for participation, what consideration they receive and how much time participation takes.

Did the corona pandemic play a role in the founding, and if so, what role?
The founding act itself was exciting because we signed our articles of association in the middle of the first lockdown and the notary paid us a special visit. Study centers were closed for a very long time in 2020, which is why we did not receive any orders in the first few months. That changed suddenly in September 2020 and we were able to launch the platform with the first studies. Our first clinical study on the platform was in connection with Covid, where we looked for participants with an acute Covid disease. This study is still ongoing and you can contact us at any time. We also launched a pro bono campaign a few weeks ago, as part of which we distribute unused vaccination doses to those who want to be vaccinated. We are thus making a small contribution to ending the pandemic more quickly.

In March you appeared in the Austrian version of “Die Höhle der Löwen”. Was it a deal?
Yes, we could go home with a deal. We accepted the offer from Runtastic founder Florian Gschwandtner and star winemaker Leo Hillinger. The appearance on “2 Minuten, 2 Mio.” was a real push for us. The broadcast was recorded in autumn 2020 and at that point we were still at the very beginning. We are now also successfully active in Germany and are growing rapidly.

Let’s take a look into the future together. What is your vision for Probando in the next five to ten years? What achievements could industries such as pharmaceuticals and medicine bring about with the help of Probando?
We were able to convince large pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer and Novo Nordisk of us in a short time and have already received follow-up orders. For us, the compass therefore points in the direction of expansion and far beyond the DACH region. But five or ten years is a very long time for a startup. I am currently feeling momentum with Probando. Digitization has arrived in both medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. In Germany we are seeing massive developments with legal regulations such as the Digital Supply Act or digital health apps on prescription. A lot will change here and I am convinced that in ten years we will have a completely different picture in the area of ​​health, care and prevention. As a test person, we also make our contribution and see ourselves as a strong driver for the further development of clinical studies.

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