Digital Health Joins The Fight Against Parkinson’s


The Michael J. Fox Foundation announces that it is partnering with Intel on a new project that will outfit Parkinson’s patients with smartwatches made by Intel’s recently acquired activity tracker business, Basis.  Michael J. Fox launched his foundation in 2000, after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at just 30 years old. The foundation has grown to become the leading nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s research in the world, with $350 million invested to date.

In its latest project, Parkinson’s patients involved with clinical trials will be outfitted with Basis activity trackers and a custom smartphone app. The Basis watch records physical activity, sleep patterns, heart rate, and a variety of other metrics useful to researchers. The trackers will pair with an app that will allow users to record medication intake as well as symptoms, such as tremors and impaired memory.

Currently, clinical trial participants are typically asked to keep a handwritten log of daily activity, medication intake, and symptoms. The information is reviewed during clinic visits and investigated retrospectively during the data analysis phase of the clinical trial. By replacing the handwritten log with an activity tracker, researchers will be able capture far more information on each patient.

“We want to be able to understand gait, fluidity of movement, tremors. The researchers are dying for the insight. The ability to see what is happening to the patient on a minute-by-minute, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year basis – the tremors, the sleep habits – to see that in real time will be one of the most eye-opening opportunities." – Ronald Kasabian, general manager of big data solutions at Intel.

Initially, researchers will use the platform to evaluate the effectiveness of new medications and treatments. Beyond this, researchers believe that individual patients may also benefit from more rigorous monitoring to ensure that they are on the optimal dose of their medications, and that they are taking those doses at the optimal time. The Michael J. Fox Foundation hopes that the new sensor-based clinical trials platform and will be ready to support new clinical trials within a few years.

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