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Michael J. Fox Foundation Collaborates with Verily to Deepen Understanding of Parkinson's Disease through Digital Health Tools

  • Two-year sub-study in Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative will include Verily Study Watch to add new dimension of health data 
  • Data collected through study will be made available to researchers worldwide alongside PPMI data since 2010 via

NEW YORK (May 9, 2018) -- A new collaboration between The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) and Verily Life Sciences LLC, an Alphabet company, will outfit more than 800 participants in the MJFF-led longitudinal Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative with the Verily Study Watch, Verily's multi-sensor investigational wearable device, to passively collect data on movement and physiologic and environmental measures continuously. The goal is to use wearable devices in conjunction with clinic-based data and biospecimen collection to home in on disease markers with the greatest potential to open promising avenues for further scientific inquiry.

The study, which will be carried out over two years, builds on PPMI infrastructure and grows the value of PPMI's unparalleled clinical, imaging, and biological dataset -- the most robust and furthest along in Parkinson's research. Launched in 2010, PPMI aims to deepen understanding of Parkinson's and validate objective measures of the disease and today is carried out at 33 clinical sites around the world (21 in the United States) with support from 22 industry partners. Participants are followed for at least five and up to 13 years and include volunteers with Parkinson's disease or at-risk for Parkinson's as well as control volunteers.

Verily and PPMI will make raw and curated data available to the worldwide research community to drive independent studies and speed knowledge turns in Parkinson's therapeutic development. PPMI data, available in real time since the study's launch, has been downloaded more than 1.7 million times to date, alongside biospecimens collected from study participants using a rigorously standardized protocol.

"From the start, PPMI has made precious biological samples and rich clinical data from its large and diverse cohort available to qualified researchers around the world in response to the urgent need for improved methods to accelerate testing of novel treatments for Parkinson's disease," says MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, PhD. "Expanding this resource through data science and wearable computing holds potential to deepen understanding of Parkinson's disease and gain meaningful insights that can inform care and therapeutic development decisions. This is why PPMI was built, and will help fulfill its tremendous promise for people with PD."

Using Parkinson's as a "Model System" to Measure Health
For nearly two decades, researchers have been refining advanced genomics and proteomics techniques to create increasingly sophisticated cellular profiles of Parkinson's disease pathology. Advances in data collection and analysis now provide the opportunity to expand the value of this wealth of molecular data by correlating it with objective clinical characterization of the disease, attaining a critical mass to detect patterns and make new discoveries.

"Verily's broadest goal as a company is to build tools to make data useful for obtaining deeper and more relevant insights to improve health -- whether through earlier diagnosis, accelerated therapy development, or more effective disease management," says William Marks, MD, MS, Head of Clinical Neurology at Verily. "These results are urgently needed across many neurological disorders, including Parkinson's disease. By capturing a wealth of data through studies such as PPMI and by deploying technology such as our Study Watch, we aim to build frameworks of multi-dimensional data of value to researchers, clinicians, and data scientists."

Building on Established Relationship
In addition to this study, MJFF and Verily are partners in the Accelerating Medicines Partnership Parkinson's disease (AMP PD) program, a public-private collaboration between the National Institutes of Health (NIH), MJFF, and five life sciences companies and managed by the Foundation for the NIH. AMP PD is applying state-of-the-art cellular profiling technologies to samples collected through PPMI and other large-scale studies to define the molecular fingerprint of Parkinson's disease. Data and analysis generated through that initiative will be available through the AMP PD Knowledge Portal, created by Verily. AMP PD and the PPMI wearables project are complementary initiatives -- generating data on both the molecular fingerprint and the clinical footprint of the disease.

Verily and MJFF also have collaborated on promotion of the company's Liftware, a selection of adaptive products designed as aids to people with hand tremor or limited mobility.

Harnessing Technology to Speed Outcomes Patients Need
As part of its mission to advance Parkinson's understanding and drug development by supporting innovative research approaches and uniting nontraditional partners, The Michael J. Fox Foundation engages with various health technology groups to develop emerging tech tools for the purposes of scientific discovery. Genetic testing company 23andMe has partnered with the MJFF-sponsored online study Fox Insight to complement patient-reported data with genetic data. MJFF-funded scientists recently published on deep learning methods for cellular profiling from a partnership with Google, and Intel Corporation collaborated on the Foundation's first foray into wearable device data capture and analysis in 2014.

In addition, MJFF is convening stakeholders to address field-wide challenges in the adoption and integration of wearable devices in studies. An industry working group is developing strategies to overcome challenges in this area such as keeping up with the pace of technological advancement and liaising with regulators on integration of these tools in treatment trials.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation and PPMI are pursuing an additional partnership to capture data with digital health tools in some European PPMI sites.


About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
As the world's largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson's patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $800 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson's research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson's disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson's awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world.

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Media Contact:
Christopher Rucas
212-509-0995 ext. 294

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