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Clover members Alfonso and Margarita

A patient-driven therapeutics company

Cheng Zhang
Jul 10, 2019 · 5 min read

Today, we are launching Clover Therapeutics as a new subsidiary of Clover Health (“Clover”), the pioneering Medicare Advantage insurer. The focus of Clover Therapeutics is on research and development of medicines for diseases of aging. As the leader of Clover Therapeutics, I want to share why we felt compelled to start this new endeavor.

The Unmet Need

Our journey began in early 2017, when I first met Clover’s co-founder and CEO, Vivek Garipalli. Immediately, I was struck by Vivek’s vision. He founded Clover not to be a better health insurer, but to be a company oriented entirely toward improving health outcomes, that also happened to be an insurer. Clover collaborates with healthcare providers to transform the way care is delivered. Our members tell us time and time again that Clover’s personalized programs in preventative health, disease screening, medication adherence, and complex care have made a noticeable impact on their health.

Even with all of Clover’s progress, we know there is a lot more work to be done to achieve our mission. One of the major gaps is the treatment of members with chronic progressive conditions. For many of these members, we often found that better coordination of care was not enough. We urgently need to advance new solutions in the form of disease-modifying treatments for conditions where none exists today (e.g., Parkinson’s Disease) and alternative therapies for conditions where some patients do not respond to the standard of care (e.g., Chronic Kidney Disease). We began to ask ourselves, could Clover play a role in developing these medicines for our population in need?

A Root Problem

The development of medicines for aging-related diseases faces a variety of barriers. They range from the challenges of discovering a new treatment that surpasses the standard of care, to the high costs and long timelines associated with conducting clinical trials. Yet perhaps the most salient hurdle is the need to bolster our knowledge of how diseases work biologically. Disease biology is like a complicated lock. Many drugs fail because we don’t know what the biological lock looks like exactly and therefore have not made the right keys to target it.

To develop better medicines, we need to better understand human disease biology. This is possible only when we work hand-in-hand with patients and healthy individuals as long-term research partners.

Clover’s Role in the Solution

Clover is morally and financially invested in the health outcomes of every single member. Clover’s provider network and clinical teams provide continuous care for members. As part of this care, we have accrued detailed information on diseases with high unmet needs and on responses to current treatments.

Clover Therapeutics is in a unique position to build on Clover’s relationships with members and invite them to voluntarily participate in research programs. We collaborate with research participants to better understand their health by pairing our pre-existing clinical information with an additional biological dataset that includes genomics, quantitative imaging, and digital biomarkers. Our community is distinctive because we can engage with participants continuously on specific medical conditions over the long term.

Armed with a combined clinical and biological dataset, the Clover Therapeutics research team works together with scientists at leading life science companies to translate these insights into medicines. This is the single most important mission for Clover Therapeutics because it creates the most tangible value for patients. Today, only ~10% of drug candidates in early stage clinical trials eventually become successful medicines. However, we know drugs that are supported by genetic evidence are approximately twice as likely to succeed. As our Chief Scientific Officer Marcel van der Brug explains in our scientific approach, Clover Therapeutics and our partners have an opportunity to further improve on these probabilities on the strength of our dataset.

Our Commitment to Patient Benefit and Protection

Every medical advancement is the result of patients volunteering for research. Their participation is critical to driving forward future cures, because they are the experts on the experience and outcomes of their conditions. Given this, what would a good research experience look like to encourage participation?

We know from our patients’ perspective that safety and privacy must be the top priority; we agree. Our research programs begin only after we have undergone rigorous review from Clover’s internal Ethics and Review Committee and an independent central Institutional Review Board. We always seek full consent from each and every research participant, ensuring they are completely informed on the objectives of a research program, the scope of their participation, the way data will be used, and the research partners we work with. There will be no change in the participant’s ongoing treatment plan, physician choice, or insurance coverage. No personally identifiable information will ever be included in the research dataset. Moreover, only organizations authorized by the participant would have access to the data — a rule that applies to even providers and insurers.

With these protections in place, research can be valuable to our participants by creating more awareness around the disease conditions studied and initiating more dialogue between participants and our research and clinical staff. Our goal is to share medical information with participants in a format that is easy to understand and actionable, in hopes that it can assist with prevention, monitoring, or follow-ups with providers. In this way, research benefits participants by not only delivering potential cures, but also providing useful information and engagement that help enhance care.

A Collaborative Way forward

Scientific research is a serious undertaking. We have a huge responsibility to serve patients and make the best use of resources. We also know there have been too many instances where companies’ ambitions overran prudence, and lofty promises were not counterbalanced by evidence and peer review.

It is for this reason that Clover Therapeutics will prioritize research and development in conjunction with leading established organizations in life science that share our values. Our partnerships help ensure our work addresses critical scientific questions via well-designed study protocols and maximizes the opportunity to develop valuable medicines. We will publish findings in peer-reviewed publications to communicate and validate our science with the broader scientific community. For our first research program, we are excited to announce that we will be collaborating with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, on ocular diseases.

As Sir William Osler, a founding physician of Johns Hopkins Hospital, once said, “He who studies medicine without books sails an uncharted sea, but he who studies medicine without patients does not go to sea at all.” Aging affects every family, and each of us — whether as a patient, a caregiver, a healthy individual, a healthcare provider, or a researcher — has a role to play to better understand it. Please join us as we set sail on our journey to overcome diseases of aging and help us all live healthier lives.

Cheng Zhang

Written by

Head of Clover Therapeutics

Clover: Off The Charts

Inspired to rethink how insurance works to better serve seniors and people with disabilities, Clover attracts empathetic and tenacious individuals dedicated to making a positive impact on the world. These are our stories.

Cheng Zhang

Written by

Head of Clover Therapeutics

Clover: Off The Charts

Inspired to rethink how insurance works to better serve seniors and people with disabilities, Clover attracts empathetic and tenacious individuals dedicated to making a positive impact on the world. These are our stories.

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