Michael J. Fox Foundation and Intel Combat Parkinson’s Disease

Ken Kaplan Executive Editor, iQ by Intel

A new program will combine big data, cloud and wearable technologies to find better ways of detecting and treating Parkinson’s disease, the nervous system disorder that causes tremors and affects movement in an estimated four to six million people worldwide.

The greatest gift that technology has to offer is the power to improve people’s lives. That’s what the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) and Intel are attempting to achieve with a new program that leverages the latest big data, cloud computing and wearable technologies to monitor Parkinson’s patients.

Rapidly introducing new technologies could help researchers find new ways of treating and caring for people with Parkinson’s.

In the United States, an estimated 1 million people have Parkinson’s disease and there 50,000-60,000 new cases diagnosed each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation, and worldwide, it is estimated that four to six million people suffer from the condition.

Nearly 200 years after Parkinson’s disease was first described by Dr. James Parkinson in 1817, we are still subjectively measuring Parkinson’s disease largely the same way doctors did then, said Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of the Michael J. Fox Foundation. “Data science, wearable computing and data from other sources hold the potential to transform our ability to capture and objectively measure patients’ actual experience of disease, with unprecedented implications for Parkinson’s drug development, diagnosis and treatment.”

It’s about more than simply capturing reams of data. It’s also about utilizing the processing power of the cloud to find one thing that may lead to improved treatments.

“The variability in Parkinson’s symptoms creates unique challenges in monitoring progression of the disease,” said Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group. “Many new technologies can help create a new paradigm for measurement of Parkinson’s, but as more data is made available to the medical community, it may also point to currently unidentified features of the disease that could lead to new areas of research.”

The initial part of the multi-phase study took place at the New York Mount Sinai Hospital and the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. A total of 25 individuals, sixteen of whom have Parkinson’s and nine healthy subjects, wore a wearable device that was paired with a smartphone to monitor their movements over the course of the initial phase study. The devices measured up to the 300 inputs per second, all of which were uploaded securely to the cloud, where an open-source software platform featuring components of Cloudera parses the data and looks for anomalies in the inputs, anomalies that can help identify a path to a cure.

The study has been structured in such a way as to allow for it to grow and manage diverse data sets from around the world, one of the benefits of cloud computing. Moreover the combination of hardware and software has been implemented so scientists can focus on patients and research, not the computing technologies.

Intel’s collaboration with the Michael J Fox Foundation brings together open-source technologies for complex data science analysis that can help researchers accelerate discoveries and improve patient’s lives.

Bret Parker, 46, of New York, participated in the study and clearly sees the benefit of using new technologies.

“I know that many doctors tell their patients to keep a log to track their Parkinson’s,” said Parker. “I am not a compliant patient on that front. I pay attention to my Parkinson’s, but it’s not everything I am all the time.”

Parker used a wearable monitoring device that didn’t disrupt his daily routine.

“The study allowed me to take an active role in the process for developing a cure,” he said.

Looking ahead, Intel and MJFF will explore expanding the number of patients in the program and co-developing a mobile application to help Parkinson’s patients, doctors and researchers monitor and access timely information about the disease.

Todd Krieger contributed this story.


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