Open-science nonprofit trots out promising data from study of iPhone app for Parkinson's

A screenshot of Sage's mPower app.

Open-science nonprofit Sage Bionetworks has released promising data from a study of its iPhone app for Parkinson's. The news is a feather in the organization's cap as it forges ahead with its technology and fleshes out the system to help researchers develop better insights into the disease.

More than 9,500 individuals with Parkinson's over the past 6 months logged data using Sage's mPower app, and the organization found a huge variation of symptoms among patients. Sage also saw different patterns in how patients took their medicine and their corresponding symptoms. The information could help scientists target better windows of intervention and also allow healthcare professionals to tailor treatment to patients, Sage said in a statement.

The app tracks patients' daily experiences to give scientists a better idea about their symptoms. mPower, which Sage developed with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, uses iPhone sensors to measure patients' dexterity, balance and gait, memory and vocal characteristics. The app also tracks when patients take their meds.

Now, with promising data in tow, Sage wants to open up the findings to all researchers. "The breadth and richness of this data demand that it not be shut away, By releasing this data widely, we hope to seed a community of researchers working collaboratively to unlock the knowledge within and make new insights that help us begin to fully understand the lived experience of someone with Parkinson's," Sage president Stephen Friend said in a statement.

Seattle-based Sage launched mPower in in March 2015 on Apple's ($AAPL) ResearchKit. The company is focusing on a nontraditional model of data sharing with its app. Participants in Sage's study can choose who to share their data with, which runs counter to most trials.

But at least so far, the organization seems to be succeeding with its approach. More than three-quarters of the more than 12,000 people using mPower chose to share their data broadly with researchers, Sage said. The organization published its findings in a recent issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

"An overwhelming number of mPower participants have chosen to donate their data to science. Now, science must do its part. As researchers, we must step up to the plate to make sense of all this data and translate it into real change in the lives of people suffering with Parkinson's," Friend said.

- read the statement
- here's the study abstract

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