Pfizer to work with IBM on Parkinson’s disease wearable

American pharma giant Pfizer has enlisted the help of technology multinational IBM in an ambitious bid to transform both care and treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

The collaboration will lead to the development of a complete patient monitoring system which will initially take the form of a sensor-filled house in which people with Parkinson’s will live.

Sensors throughout the house and placed on the 200 participants will give real-time feedback to researchers about drug efficacy and dosage through the measurement of such things as sleep patterns, cognition and daily activities.

If successful, the ultimate goal will be to expand the technology into the homes of the general public as well as perhaps providing an alternative platform for Pfizer to test new drugs.

One particular drug of Pfizer’s, currently named PF-06649751, will be tested in the environment in phase 3 trials in 2019 if initial testing finds the model efficient.

Vice president and head of quantitative medicine at Pfizer Peter Bergethon commented on the project, explaining how the concept was formed as a matter of combining digital technology and continuous monitoring to improve both clinical trials and care delivery.

“The system will be able to tell you the pharmacodynamics of how well the drug is working and when it’s working. That’s an important thing to be able to tell the patients as well as the doctors, regulators and insurance companies.”

Ajay Royyuro, director of the Computational Biology Center at IBM Research, explained his enthusiasm for the collaboration: “I think there is real opportunity here to make a difference in the lives of patients. I have seen and have close contact with a family member with Parkinson’s and I can see how effective it would be to have this real-time symptomatic measurement and helping them make their lives better.”

For Pfizer, this project gives them the opportunity to truly revolutionise Parkinson’s care, providing valuable insights into trial participant behaviour and effects of drugs.

This is not the first instance of Pfizer pushing the boat out in terms of clinical trial structure. In 2011, its own REMOTE trial was built on a “virtual” concept, eliminating the need for participants to travel to trial sites. The original structure ultimately led to its own demise, nevertheless it placed Pfizer at the forefront of the field.

For IBM, the project represents another opportunity for it to establish itself as a leader of the digital health movement, following on from their busy 2015 full of health tech acquisitions and the striking up of both pharma and technology partnerships.

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