February 2015

The History of OpenCDISC

February 24, 2015

In the Beginning

It was late 2007. Mad Men was the hottest show on TV. The BlackBerry was still the most popular smartphone. Senator Barack Obama was securing his party’s nomination for the next presidential election. And a young clinical data exchange specialist named Max Kanevsky was contemplating the future of the biopharmaceutical industry.

During his tenure at Merck, Max had been responsible for integrating the company with many external partners (e.g., laboratories, CROs, joint ventures, technology providers), working with many non-standardized sources of data. Though the norm, gathering all that disparate data and mapping it into Merck’s internal standard was a huge challenge. When the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC) started to make headway in its mission to develop a global set of standards, it marked a new beginning. CDISC would eventually define the standards for the entire industry.

But Max wondered how sponsors would possibly manage such a sea-change. At the time, software options to help ensure a submission’s compliance with FDA business rules were limited. WebSDM offered limited performance and capabilities, at a price point that was prohibitive to many. Meanwhile, Max was helping Merck with its early manual implementations of CDISC standards, including LAB, ODM and SDTM, which were difficult and time consuming. And each new challenge provided an obstacle that could threaten FDA approval of any given drug. There had to be a better way. But what?