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Amy Zucker is president of Indianapolis-based Synergy Marketing Group. Her firm was recently hired by Indianapolis-based ImmuneWorks Inc. to use a new website and search-engine optimization to help recruit patients for a Phase 1 trial of ImmuneWorks experimental medicine for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF. The Web strategy is a new wrinkle on patient recruitment—in addition to the traditional partnerships with disease specialists at academic medical centers—which Zucker hopes leads to lower costs and faster clinical trials. Phase 1 clinical trials cost nearly $16,000 per patient.

IBJ: Your company has worked for life sciences firms doing commercialization work but never clinical-trial recruitment. How did you get together with ImmuneWorks on this project?

A:  I’ve known [ImmuneWorks CEO] Wade Lange for many years. He recognized that if he’s going to market with the clinical trial, he needs to instill confidence in the patients in the clinical trial and with the referring physicians and with the [patients’] friends and family, to be comfortable with the company. So we updated his website, freshening the overall look and bringing the technology behind it up to date. Also, we were able to apply all of our SEO best practices throughout the site.

IBJ: SEO, or search-engine optimization, helps ImmuneWorks’ clinical-trial information to appear on the first page of Google’s search results when someone searches for IPF treatments. Why does it make sense to try to find patients using this technology, in addition to finding physicians that are already treating IPF patients?

A: IPF is fatal and there is no known treatment. The people that are diagnosed with this, they’re in desperate need of some treatment options. So they’re searching for treatment options right now. That’s why I feel that SEO makes sense for our clients.

IBJ: The new site went live 10 days ago. What’s been the response?

A: They’ve already been flooded. IPF is a pretty small population, less than 200,000 are diagnosed each year in the United States. Most of them are 60 and over. We didn’t know whether those patients would be using the Internet to research their disease. But we’re getting submissions every single day. We’ve been really pleased with the response on ImmuneWorks. The faster they can find those clinical participants the faster they can complete these clinical trails and move on to the next stage.

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