MJFF Partners with Verily to Use Data Collection Watch in PPMI Study to Advance Parkinson’s Research

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) and Verily Life Sciences are collaborating to collect data on movement, physiological, and environmental measures in Parkinson’s patients for the MJFF-led Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI).

More than 800 PPMI participants will be outfitted with Verily’s investigational Study Watch, a multi-sensor device that collects data while people with Parkinson’s disease carry on with their daily lives. The goal is to combine digital tools with clinical-based data to identify disease markers and develop new therapeutic approaches.

Study Watch combines specialized sensors and robust cloud infrastructure to capture and analyze physiological and environmental data. It has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The device is intended to blend into daily life and capture information for researchers that is uploaded via WiFi or a cellular network through Verily Study Hub, the company’s platform where the information is stored and processed using algorithms and machine learning tools.

Study Watch is already being used in several clinical and observational studies, including Project Baseline and the Aurora Study.

The collaborative study builds on PPMI’s infrastructure and knowledge. The ongoing PPMI observational study began in 2010 and now includes about 1,000 people at sites in 11 countries.

The study aims to speed up the development of Parkinson’s therapies by evaluating the efficacy of several markers of disease progression in a large group of newly diagnosed Parkinson’s patients and healthy controls.

Verily and PPMI will also make raw and curated data available to researchers, hoping to advance independent studies and accelerate knowledge in Parkinson’s therapeutic development.

“Expanding this resource through data science and wearable computing holds potential to deepen understanding of Parkinson’s disease and gain meaningful insights that can inform care and therapeutic development decisions,” Todd Sherer, PhD, the CEO of MJFF, said in a news release. “This is why PPMI was built, and will help fulfill its tremendous promise for people with PD.”

The scientific community seems to agree that the potential in digital health technology advances is significant.

Correlating the currently available wealth of molecular information with the objective clinical data of the disease could enable the detection of new disease patterns and eventually lead to new discoveries.

“These results are urgently needed across many neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease,” said William Marks, MD, head of clinical neurology at Verily. “By capturing a wealth of data through studies such as PPMI and by deploying technology such as our Study Watch, we aim to build frameworks of multi-dimensional data of value to researchers, clinicians, and data scientists.”

MJFF and Verily are also partners in the Accelerating Medicines Partnership Parkinson’s disease (AMP PD) program, a public-private collaboration between the foundation, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and five life sciences companies.

The AMP PD program was launched in January 2018 and is applying cellular profiling technologies to samples collected through PPMI and other studies. The ultimate goal is to define the molecular fingerprint of Parkinson’s disease.