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Can wearable sensors add value for Parkinson’s patients?

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    Digital technologies have the potential to monitor a wide range of patient outcomes, helping researchers to develop treatments that improve lives.

    The global burden of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is rising. From an estimated 2.6 million people in 1990 to 6.3 million in 2015, the severe neurological condition is forecast to affect 12.9 million people by 2040 as global populations age.

    There are a number of new medicines in the pipeline but researchers face several challenges in PD drug development. One of the key issues is the lack of precision in measuring outcomes. If we want to be sure that new therapies add value for patients, it is vital that we track outcomes that matter to them.

    A promising way of doing this is to embrace digital technologies such as wearable sensors. These allow researchers to passively collect data during the day as patients go about their lives. Capturing both motor and nonmotor symptoms gives a more holistic picture of patients’ symptoms and quality of life than the snapshot offered through doctor-patient interactions at a clinic.

    However, despite rapid progress in digital technologies, there are gaps that remain to be addressed before they are ready for use in clinical trials. Through the Critical Path for Parkinson’s (CPP) initiative, UCB is working with other research-based biopharma companies, and engaging with regulators, to explore ways of incorporating wearables into PD research and care.  The CPP is a global public-private-partnership led by the Critical Path Institute (C-Path). UCB took part in a meeting with the FDA in May 2019 on the use of wearable technologies in Parkinson’s disease.

    The WATCH-PD (Wearable Assessments in The Clinic and Home in PD) is part of this collaborative effort to study the role of wearables in Parkinson’s. The research is designed to generate a set of candidate objective digital measures that eventually can be used to complement standard clinical assessments in measuring the progression of PD and response to treatment.

    The 12-month study of PD progression in subjects with early, untreated PD allows the collection of digital data which can then be analysed and discussed with regulatory agencies. Using highly-sensitive sensors, researchers can objectively measure validated clinical signs frequently and remotely, and compare this with standard subjective clinical assessments.

    Continuous measurement removes the bias associated with testing in the clinic. It employs devices with which patients may already be familiar such as smartphones and smart watches.  

    Our collaborative and innovative approach demonstrates UCB’s commitment to working with others and embracing new technologies from outside the traditional healthcare sector. We hope wearables will accelerate the development of new therapeutic options for people with PD – helping to improve quality of life by addressing outcomes that matter to patients.

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