Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Generally speaking, our PharmaVoice 100 honorees are nominated by colleagues or long-time professional acquaintances. But it was Vincent Keunen’s daughter who put the founder and CEO of Andaman7 forward this year with an impassioned nomination. Given the family’s history, it’s clear why Keunen’s daughter would be able to make the best case.
“My family was challenged with [Keunen’s] diagnosis of leukemia and then, three months later, my younger brother’s cancer diagnosis at 10 years old,” Keunen’s daughter writes. “While [Keunen] made a good recovery and managed his condition with daily medication, the situation was less positive for my brother, who lost his leg to cancer.”
Already a successful IT systems specialist with experience as a health records software engineer, Keunen emerged from his cancer experience with a new conviction to apply his talents in the realm of patient data and clinical trials.
“Their different patient journeys and difficulties gaining control of their health data is what inspired my father to set up Andaman7,” Keunen’s daughter writes.
Today, Andaman7’s app-based platform creates an intersection for patients and researchers to connect. With the app, patients are able to store and access personal health records (PHR) and then, if they choose, share that data with scientists. The researchers who gain access to the PHR are able to use this data, such as health outcomes, to benefit real-world evidence (RWE) collections and help inform clinical trials.
“Long before the pandemic, [Keunen] had a vision for remote clinical trials and RWE, and passionately believes empowerment opportunities should be available to every patient — wherever they are in the world,” a nominator writes.
“Building trust is key, I believe. Patients are tired of their data being abused. But they agree to contribute to science if some basic principles are met.”
CEO, founder, Andaman7
Today, Andaman7 is connected to over 10,000 hospitals in the U.S., a nominator says. But Keunen’s vision extends far beyond the U.S borders. Currently, the app is available in more than 20 languages and has been downloaded in over 30 countries.
“He is a champion for digital health globally,” his nominator says, noting that Keunen has been particularly focused on making inroads in Africa and is in talks to launch a special project that could be used as a pilot for several African countries.
The fact that the app is used on a smartphone and doesn’t require an internet connection or cloud storage means it can be used by multiple patients in the same house, and, the company says, helps it provide better data security than web-based platforms.
“Data from multiple sources (connected devices, hospital EHRs and laboratories) is stored on mobile devices and exchanged in a distributed peer-to-peer method, giving the patient the autonomy to manage that data on their smartphone,” a nominator says.
These particular features are not only key to improving access, they could also help more patients feel comfortable sharing their health records, which could serve as a boon for drug development.
“Medical researchers absolutely need data to find new treatments,” Keunen says. “Patients do agree to share their data under certain conditions. Let’s help meet them.”
Called a “courageous visionary” by a nominator, Keunen and Andaman7 have won numerous awards in the U.S. and abroad. In 2019, Keunen was asked to share his experience at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference and was a winner at the Janssen France National Datathon the same year.
“The fact that [Keunen] is also a cancer survivor gives him a deep appreciation for the big picture — patients and their data are not just a cog in the healthcare system or in a clinical trial machine,” a healthcare blogger once wrote about Keunen. “Helping them is the reason he does what he does.”