New Collaboration Will Focus on Developing Parkinson’s Screening Software

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by Alice Melão |

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Startup company Jesse Medical and researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have agreed to collaborate on the further development and commercialization of new software to enable early detection and improved monitoring of Parkinson’s disease.

The screening technology analyzes the results of seven specific drawing and writing tasks, including simple writing and drawing a spiral by joining dots, performed on an interactive tablet, allowing the identification of a patient-specific pattern of motor response.

Dexterity information collected through this software provides clinicians with real-time data on fine motor skills that can be used to differentiate between people who do not have Parkinson’s and those who may have the disease but still do not show its most common and visible motor symptoms.

“It’s long been known that Parkinson’s disease affects muscle control and habitual activities, so it affects how patients write and draw. Our technology translates that insight into a reliable assessment tool,” Dinesh Kumar, PhD,  a professor at RMIT and lead investigator of the team that developed the software, said in a news story from the institute.

Using only a pen, paper, and a drawing tablet, the software can evaluate speed and applied pen-pressure while a person performs specific writing and drawing tasks.

Results from a study that evaluated an initial version of the software demonstrated that the new tool had the potential to distinguish not only Parkinson’s patients from controls, but also patients with differing disease severity with an accuracy of 93%. The assessment tool has since been refined and can now also be used to monitor response to treatment.

“As our population ages, the number of people living with Parkinson’s is expected to increase dramatically, so knowing more precisely how the disease is progressing and understanding the effect of different treatments will be crucial in helping them manage their condition,” Kumar said. “Our technology is completely objective and it’s highly sensitive for both improvements and deterioration in dexterity.”

RMIT’s biomedical engineering team has granted Jesse Medical exclusive rights to conduct clinical trials and commercialize this innovative technology with the newly established agreement.

The startup company anticipates the launch of clinical studies to evaluate the potential of this diagnostic and monitoring tool in Australia and China in mid-2020. These trials are expected to support the anticipated approval of the software for commercialization by 2022.

“The agreement with Jesse Medical is an exciting step in bringing this much-needed technology into the hands of clinicians, to benefit the many people around the world affected by this condition,” Kumar said.