Pfizer, IBM team up on wearables to treat Parkinson’s disease
Pfizer, IBM team up on wearables to treat Parkinson’s disease

Pfizer, IBM team up on wearables to treat Parkinson’s disease

Tech and pharma firms to use wearables for tracking and treating neurodegenerative disorders and other diseases

IBM and partnered with Pfizer to develop wearable technologies to help sufferers of Parkinson’s disease.

The companies are looking to wearable technologies that can be integrated into the daily lives of patients. These wearables can then track the progress of the disease and help in treating it to alleviate some of the symptoms so people can lead as near normal life as possible.

The disease is characterised by tremors in the limbs as well as stiffness and poor balance. In particular, it requires ongoing adjustment to medication depending on the progression of the disease and response of the patient.

The research looks to accurately measure a variety of health indicators, including motor function, dyskinesia, cognition, sleep and daily activities such as grooming, dressing and eating. Insights from these data could help clinicians understand the effect of a patient’s medication as the disease progresses, enabling them to help optimize the patient’s treatment regimen as needed.

Data generated through the system could also arm researchers with the insights and real-world evidence needed to help accelerate potential new and better therapies.

To do this, technology could be embedded into a patient’s kitchen to see how they cook for themselves or a wearable that monitors movement or sleep patterns. This information can prove crucial in determining how well medication is working on the patient.

Mikael Dolsten, president of Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development, said that the key success “will be to deliver a reliable, scalable system of measurement and analysis that would help inform our clinical programs across important areas of unmet medical need, potentially accelerating the drug development and regulatory approval processes and helping us to get better therapies to patients, faster.”

“With the proliferation of digital health information, one area that remains elusive is the collection of real-time physiological data to support disease management,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research.

“We are testing ways to create a system that passively collects data with little to no burden on the patient, and to provide doctors and researchers with objective, real-time insights that we believe could fundamentally change the way patients are monitored and treated.”

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Wearables can track clinical data

The two companies project that the system will move into initial clinical testing quickly. Pfizer and IBM will convene an external advisory board of patient groups, advocacy organizations, clinicians, and neuroscientists for guidance on the use of technology, medical devices, data management, and research protocols, and to ensure the needs of patients guide the programme.

Ian Hughes, Internet of Things analyst at 451 Research, told Internet of Business that wearables are able to detect many more pieces of information than steps and heart rate.

“Any activity and even location has relevance in a clinical trial. A medical appliance, delivering a dosage can record and send that activity. Just as HP printers can re-order their ink automatically, the same could apply to medication and consumables,” he said.

“Samsung have produced a biochip that gathers five different sensor types to provide a wider range of data about the quantified self.”

Eugene Borukhovich, SVP of Healthcare at SoftServe, told Internet of Business that a smartphone is capable of collecting an incredible amount of data about its user.

“From movement and location, to communication and activity. With OBH we created an app that could harvest data from sensors continuously, and in a quick and user friendly manner to prompt a user to provide feedback. This data would be stored, then analysed using machine learning algorithms to find behavioural patterns that correlated with wellness among patients with diabetes.”

Tim Hoctor, VP Life Science Solutions Services, Elsevier R&D Solutions, told Internet of Business that with the popularity of wearables and the hype created by global tech companies – such as Apple with its Research Kit and Google’s Life Science Ventures – come vastly increased expectations among the general public.

“By generating and collecting health data, users believe that their data can be put to use to aid research and benefit patients. But the reality is that while tech companies are good at gathering data, they often do not understand the true scientific context and lack the expertise to actually uncover insights from the data they hold.

Hoctor added that tech companies cannot support R&D and drug discovery by themselves, but need the help of experts who are able to make sense of the data and understand clinical inferences.

“We are gradually seeing moves towards the use of wearable devices in clinical trials to collect results from patients, which is exactly the kind of partnership that can aid future research and improve understanding of how patients respond to treatments,” he added.

You might like to read: Wearable tech emerges for cognitive health monitoring

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