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IBM, Pfizer Team Up to Develop Remote Monitoring Solutions for Parkinson’s Disease Study

April 8, 2016
by Heather Landi
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IBM Research Data Scientist Eric Clark explores wearable technologies that could help monitor and analyze biological data from study subjects at IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, NY. allery

Pfizer and IBM announced this week a research collaboration to develop remote monitoring solutions that can provide clinicians and researchers with real-time Parkinson’s disease symptom information.

The two companies are partnering to create an experimental Internet of Things (IoT) system that uses connected devices to help track the overall health of patients with Parkinson’s disease. The goal is obtain a better understanding of a patient’s disease progression and medication response with the hope that this can, in turn, inform treatment decisions and clinical trial design while also potentially speeding the development of new therapeutic options, the companies said.

The study will rely on a system of sensors, mobile devices, and machine learning to provide real-time, around-the-clock disease symptom information to clinicians and researchers, which could offer new insights into disease progression and treatment, according to a press release.

 “We have an opportunity to potentially redefine how we think about patient outcomes and 24/7 monitoring, by combining Pfizer’s scientific, medical and regulatory expertise with IBM’s ability to integrate and interpret complex data in innovative ways,” Mikael Dolsten, M.D., Ph.D., president of Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development, said in a statement. “The key to our 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.”

Parkinson’s disease in particular requires ongoing adjustment to medication depending on the progression of the disease and response of the patient. The companies said that the use of connected devices will help create a “holistic view of a patient’s well-being” and the remote monitoring solution will 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.

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

The two companies project that the system will move into initial clinical testing quickly. Pfizer and IBM also announced that the companies will create 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 program.

According to the World Health Organization, neurological disorders including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy impact almost one billion families around the world and account for 12 percent of total deaths globally, the press release stated. Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, and an estimated seven to 10 million people suffer from the disease globally, according to the press release.




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