MC10, biopharma company UCB team up on neurological diseases

By Jonah Comstock
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MC10_BiostampCambridge, Massachusetts-based flexible electronics company MC10 has embarked on its first public partnership with a pharmaceutical company, Belgium-based UCB. Although many of the details remain undisclosed, the companies have announced that UCB will use MC10's BioStamp technology to pursue new therapies for neurological disorders.

"They’re going to combine our devices with their work to understand neurological diseases with more detail and insight than they can get with their current methods," Ben Schlatka, cofounder and vice president of corporate development at MC10, told MobiHealthNews. "That’s exciting for a lot of reasons. It’s exciting for researchers of the disease. It’s exciting for physicians that work directly with patients, it’s exciting for the patients themselves. ... I think the idea of opening up a realtime insight into physiological parameters and patient responses to therapy is a really important part of the collaboration."

BioStamp is an iteration of MC10's flexible, stretchable electronics technology which adheres to the patient's skin like a temporary tattoo. The micro-electronics can track things like "motion, things like heart rate, things like muscle potential, those different assessments," Schlatka said, and "once you combine them in a soft, discrete, patient-friendly device that can be affixed to multiple locations across the body, you start to get... novel physiological insights that are taken out in the real world, not in the clinic."

MC10 has pursued a partnership strategy before when it worked with Reebok to develop the CheckLight, a mesh cap that fits under a sports helmet to detect concussions and monitor impacts. With UCB, the company is showing a willingness to engage in similar partnerships in the biopharma and even clinical space. Elyse Winer, manager of marketing and communications at MC10, said pharma companies started to take notice after a paper MC10 published in Nature about movement and neurological disorders. 

"That paper actually got a lot of attention from the pharma space, saying ‘right now the way we understand data from patients is rudimentary,'" she said. "'We collect data from patients using diaries, rating scales, both in clinical trials when we’re studying the impact of our therapies, but also in the real world.’ Asking patients to self-report symptoms, not only does it present a burden for patients psychologically, but also logistically, it’s also extremely subjective and it takes a lot of time for doctors to find the right therapy for the patient."

Schlatka said there will be short term and long term benefits from the partnership. In the short term, its researchers who will benefit from having more complete and robust data on trial participants. But down the road, pending FDA clearance, UCB could make the technology available bundled with a drug or therapy, giving patients and doctors access to the data from BioStamp. Having the technology in the hands of doctors could allow pharma companies to develop more personalized therapies, he said.

"The reality is we have drugs today that are really meant to address the broadest population that’s affected by a disease," he said. "In this particular case, now you can actually take that information and tune it to the individual, so I think that’s going to be very advantageous to doctors over time."

Partnerships across different industries, such as sports, defense, and healthcare, are "mutually reinforcing" for MC10, Schlatka said, allowing the company to benefit from the many different ways wearables are being used and to apply lessons from one sector to another.

"The way we’ve build those collaborations is different, the purposes for which we're measuring those physiological parameters are different, but they’ve been very coincident and supportive of one another," he said. "As a category for us, building more of these collaborations in healthcare is going to be an important thing for us in the future."