Michael J. Fox Foundation, Intel Collaborate on Wearable Diagnostics

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and Intel Corporation have announced a collaboration aimed at improving research on and treatment for Parkinson's disease through the use of wearable technology that delivers information about patient symptoms to an open-source platform.

The collaboration includes a multi-phase research study that will use an analytics platform that detects patterns in patients wearing a data-collection device. In an earlier study this year, MJFF and Intel tested wearable devices that tracked highly variable physiological symptoms of Parkinson’s such as slowness of movement, tremors, and sleep quality in twenty-five participants — sixteen Parkinson's patients and nine control volunteers — who wore the devices continuously over four days. Intel data scientists are correlating the data to clinical observations and patient diaries to gauge the accuracy of the devices and eventually plan to develop algorithms to measure patient symptoms and disease progression.

The effort is expected to be a boon for researchers and physicians working to understand and treat Parkinson’s. Currently, researchers look at only a small number of data points and must read pencil-and-paper patient diaries collected sporadically. In contrast, the new platform analyzes hundreds of readings per second from thousands of patients and detects changes in patterns in real time. Later this year, Intel and MJFF plan to launch a mobile application that enables Parkinson’s patients to report their medication intake as well as how they are feeling, which eventually will enable researchers to analyze the efficacy of different Parkinson’s drugs.

"Nearly two hundred years after Parkinson's disease was first described by Dr. James Parkinson, we are still subjectively measuring Parkinson's disease largely the same way doctors did then," said Todd Sherer, CEO of the Michael J. Fox Foundation. "Data science and wearable computing hold the potential to transform our ability to capture and objectively measure patients' actual experience of disease, with unprecedented implications for Parkinson's drug development, diagnosis and treatment."