Cincinnati Startup Streamlines Clinical Trials by Improving Patient Recruitment

Across the country, researchers conduct breakthrough clinical trials that lead to the development of safe and effective drugs and therapies that give patients a new chance at fighting a variety of diseases. Although those researchers and their medical centers are doing amazing work, the processes that lead to those trials are often convoluted and inefficient. Most patients who suffer from the diseases that new therapies could treat will never have access to them. To streamline that process and connect patients, researchers and new therapies, Cincinnati startup High Enroll has a solution. Their platform identifies and recruits eligible patients, improving research and broadening access.

“Effective patient recruitment is a problem my colleagues, my friends and I see daily and one of the reasons why we started High Enroll,” said Dr. Dylan Steen, founder of the company and cardiologist at the University of Cincinnati. “We really care about health care providers and we wanted to build a product for everyone we work with. High Enroll provides a user-friendly platform for providers and institutions to recruit research participants for any type of research study in any area of health or medicine.”

Steen previously worked with the TIMI Study Group, an academic research organization of Brigham & Women’s Hospital and an affiliate of Harvard Medical School that conducts some of the largest and most scientifically rigorous cardiovascular studies in the world. There, he saw how research studies were designed, developed and conducted among thousands of doctors, researchers and patients in 45 countries. And, perhaps most importantly, he saw their shortcomings.

“Patients who participate in research studies do better than those who don’t, because they have more focus from a research team to study progress and provide the best therapies,” he said. “But at any given site, only a few providers will know about a particular recruiting study, the details and who on the research team to contact, which means most people never have access to it. For example, millions of people in Ohio have diabetes, but a tiny fraction of those diabetic patients will ever be offered the opportunity to participate in a diabetic research study even though they may be eligible. The recruiting healthcare institutions will probably only enroll 10-15 folks because the process of identifying patients for studies isn’t streamlined.”

High Enroll was formed in 2019 and launched at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020. They understood the position health care systems were in, however, and developed a business model that created zero financial risk for institutions that got on board. Amid layoffs and the elimination of discretionary spending at many systems, Steen and High Enroll leadership knew they had to prove their worth without upfront costs, offering the platform with no initial investment from the organizations they worked with. Since, they have partnered with multiple departments at the University of Cincinnati and St. Elizabeth Healthcare, and have more partnerships in the works.

“Our goal is to have a nationwide reach, which comes from having a bigger team with A+ people,” Steen said. “We want to offer our customers a 10/10 experience, the full side of the product and full contact with our technical team. If we can help change the performance of health care institutions in research, that can change the performance of National Institute of Health studies, industry studies and reduce the challenges of biomedical development.”

With an eye on expansion, High Enroll is prioritizing growing their Cincinnati team, adding health care partners and attracting additional investment. And in Ohio, where major health care players like the Cleveland Clinic, The Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati can be found in abundance, the startup knows it’s in the right place to scale a product they believe can help change lives.

“At its core any kind of project you do, whether it’s a startup or it’s a big clinical trial, it just comes down to the people,” Steen said. “Not only is Cincinnati rich in health care institutions that connect with our customers and users, but we’ve had The University of Cincinnati’s 1819 Innovation Hub provide us with resources, advisors, information and connections to other entrepreneurs. I’ve had the fortune to meet good people here in Ohio, and there is a spirit of wanting to see Cincinnati- and Ohio-based products be successful. The home state pride here really helps with our progress and our ability to grow.”