The way a patient walks can be an important indicator of cognitive and physical health. Now researchers from across Europe are set to team up with European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) companies to develop a new sensor-enabled tool that will digitally assess the loss in mobility.
The €50 million project, dubbed MOBILISE-D, is funded by the European Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking. Newcastle University will head up the project with assistance from the pharma company Novartis.
The goal of the new technology is to help with clinical trials and clinical management, specifically looking at the senior population. In a press statement, researchers explained that gait is an indicator of several health risks including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, hip fracture recovery, proximal femoral fracture and congestive heart failure.
"Digital technology, including sensors worn on the body, have the potential to transform how we assess mobility and identify life-changing conditions,” Lynn Rochester, professor of Human Movement Science at Newcastle University, who is coordinating the research, said in a press statement. “This will enable medical teams to intervene earlier and offer treatment to extend healthy life."
WHY IT MATTERS
Researchers plan to use the tool to help with clinical studies. Part of the goal of the technology is to help research and development departments “predict, detect and measure mobility loss.”
“The results of MOBILISE-D will facilitate drug development, develop a roadmap for clinical implementation of innovative tools to identify, stratify, and monitor disability in patients, and enable cost effective, wide access to clinical management and personalised healthcare,” Ronenn Roubenoff, Global Translational Medicine Head, Musculoskeletal Disease at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, said in a statement. "A key immediate impact will be on the design of clinical trials for novel treatment development, supporting better patient inclusion & stratification, more sensitive clinical outcomes, a potential correlation of real-world patient reported outcome for evidence-based healthcare.”
The pharma industry is becoming increasingly interested in the digital health space. Wearable and sensor technology has often been employed in research and development.
In fact, Alphabet’s life science subsidiary Verily developed a research-specific wearable called the Verily Study Watch that recently landed FDA clearance. The watch is a prescription-only device and was designed to record, store, transfer and display single-channel ECG rhythms. The company said the device’s ability to take on-demand, single-lead ECG can be used for individual patient care or for population-based research.
Pharma giant Johnson & Johnson has also turned to wearables. In January, the company inked a deal with Apple to explore the role of Apple Watches in monitoring seniors’ health.
ON THE RECORD
"MOBILISE-D will build an all-encompassing, clinically-valid digital mobility assessment system capable of use across all conditions where mobility loss is relevant and bring with it a personalised approach to healthcare for the benefit of citizens in the EU and globally,” Rochester said.