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Natural History and Real-World Data in Rare Diseases: Applications, Limitations, and Future Perspectives.

Rare diseases represent a highly heterogeneous group of disorders with high phenotypic and genotypic diversity within individual conditions. Due to the small numbers of people affected, there are unique challenges in understanding rare diseases and drug development for these conditions, including patient identification and recruitment, trial design, and costs.

Natural history data and real-world data (RWD) play significant roles in defining and characterizing disease progression, final patient populations, novel biomarkers, genetic relationships, and treatment effects. This review provides an introduction to rare diseases, natural history data, RWD, and real-world evidence, the respective sources and applications of these data in several rare diseases. Considerations for data quality and limitations when using natural history and RWD are also elaborated. Opportunities are highlighted for cross-sector collaboration, standardized and high-quality data collection using new technologies, and more comprehensive evidence generation using quantitative approaches such as disease progression modelling, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

Aridhia has made a good start on this opportunity in collaboration with the Critical Path Institute supporting the data sharing Collaboratory, RDCA-DAP platform which is powered by the Aridhia DRE. Advanced statistical approaches to integrate natural history data and RWD to further disease understanding and guide more efficient clinical study design and data analysis in drug development in rare diseases are also discussed in this paper.

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