Michael J Fox Foundation and Intel join forces for Parkinson’s disease research

14 August 2014 (Last Updated August 14th, 2014 18:30)

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) and Intel have joined forces to improve research for the monitoring and treatment of Parkinson's disease (PD).

Big Data Analytics Platform

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) and Intel have joined forces to improve research for the monitoring and treatment of Parkinson's disease (PD).

Under the agreement, both parties will conduct a multiphase research study using a large data analytics platform, which detects patterns in participant data collected from wearable technologies that are used to monitor symptoms.

The deal will facilitate the development of smartwatches for patients by Intel's Basis Science division, a maker of health-oriented smartwatches.

The main aim of the collaboration is to combine Intel's hardware and software, including an upcoming mobile app, new wearable devices and a data analytics platform, for a multiphase research study that will take advantage of monitoring techniques unique to the technology.

The new wearable devices and analytic studies are expected to better record patient symptoms, such as hand tremors, as well as provide new insights into PD and its drug treatments, which have been difficult to study objectively on a widespread scale in the past.

The study will allow researchers and physicians to measure the progression of the disease to find breakthroughs in drug development.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation CEO Todd Sherer: "Nearly 200 years after Parkinson's disease was first described by Dr James Parkinson in 1817, we are still subjectively measuring Parkinson's disease largely the same way doctors did then.

"The study will allow researchers and physicians to measure the progression of the disease to find breakthroughs in drug development."

"Data science and wearable computing hold the potential to transform our ability to capture and objectively measure patients' actual experience of [the] disease, with unprecedented implications for Parkinson's drug development, diagnosis and treatment."

Intel Data Center Group senior vice-president and general manager Diane Bryant said: "The variability in Parkinson's symptoms creates unique challenges in monitoring progression of the disease.

"Emerging technologies can not only create a new paradigm for measurement of Parkinson's, but as more data is made available to the medical community, it may also point to currently unidentified features of the disease that could lead to new areas of research."

Earlier this year, the two firms started a study to assess the usability and accuracy of wearable devices for tracking agreed physiological features from participants. This used a large data analytics platform to collect and analyse the data.

A total of 16 Parkinson's patients and nine control volunteers wore the devices during two clinic visits and at home continuously over four days.

In order to gauge the accuracy, Intel data scientists are currently correlating the data collected with clinical observations and patient diaries, and are also developing algorithms to measure symptoms and disease progression.

Later in this year, the two parties intend to launch a new mobile application that allows patients to report their medication intake and how they are feeling.

The launch of the application will allow medical researchers to evaluate the effects of medication on motor symptoms via changes detected in sensor data from wearable devices.


Image: Data collected from Parkinson's patients via wearable devices is housed in an open platform for analysis. Photo: courtesy of the Intel Corporation.