IBM, Pfizer Collaborate on Parkinson's Disease IoT Research
Royyuro said IBM has taken a portion of a house on the IBM Research Yorktown Heights, NY, campus and has converted it into a living lab. And Pfizer is working on a lab that will mirror what IBM's does. IBM’s primary goal with the project is to build the technology in a manner that it would scale, he said. “The intention is to deploy this in the field and actively monitor a large number of Parkinson’s subjects in a future clinical trial that Pfizer might run,” Royyuro said. “So this has to be field deployable and scalable. IBM’s effort is very focused on the technology and ease of scalability and deployment. Then, from the environment, we’re looking at how do we vary the flow of data from the sensor to some intermediate hub that does all the data cleansing and protects the patient’s privacy and does some rudimentary analysis and provides some analyzed data out into the cloud.” That’s the infrastructure activity IBM is examining. The company also is looking at analytics to help give out the proper data, because individual sensors are very “chirpy” and may give off extraneous information, Royyuro said.“It’s IBM’s vision that as we finalize the system, it naturally feeds into the solution portfolio that we have in IBM in the Watson Health business unit,” he said. “It’s not a business today. But if you look at what the outcome that the research can be it is really a solution that provides this kind of clinical monitoring and enables this practice in clinical trials in the future. And the business part of IBM that can serve it to companies like Pfizer and others is our Watson Health business unit. So we are creating some research and prototype technology that if we were to develop and test and validate, it becomes something that our Watson Health business unit can take advantage of and create business out of.” Moreover, this could also in the future lead to more cognitive assistance, where Parkinson’s patients could get information about the condition of their symptoms and get guidance on options to consider to alleviate symptoms or avoid activities such as driving, Royyuro said. “The research effort between IBM and Pfizer aims to fundamentally change the way that healthcare professionals care for patients with Parkinson's disease by providing real-time, around-the-clock disease and symptom information from specific patients to clinicians and researchers,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “In turn, they can make necessary adjustments in medication and treatment to ensure that patients receive optimal care. The companies will explore approaches that leverage integrated IBM wireless technologies, mobile sensors and machine learning, resulting in what are essentially highly personalized IoT solutions. If the project is successful it will likely have applications in treating other neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy which the World Health Organization estimates accounts for or contributes to about 12 percent of all deaths. No research project can offer guaranteed results but if IBM and Pfizer succeed they will have the potential to improve the lives of millions of individuals and families.”
Meanwhile, Pfizer is looking to recruit subjects into trials. If IBM is successful with this technology, it will directly feed into Pfizer clinical trials that will test the technology and the readouts it generates in a clinical setting. In essence, Pfizer's efforts complement what IBM does on the technology side, Royyuro said.