Biogen, Siemens Healthineers to quantify MRI analysis for multiple sclerosis

Biogen headquarters
Physicians qualitatively assess MRI scans to diagnose multiple sclerosis, but a quantitative approach could improve understanding of the disease and yield better outcomes.

Multiple sclerosis torchbearer Biogen is joining forces with Siemens Healthineers to develop MRI applications to quantify “key markers” indicating disease activity and progression.

Physicians already use MRI to diagnose multiple sclerosis, a disease in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system and which can cause tremors, memory problems, blindness and paralysis, among other symptoms. But doctors currently assess MRI scans qualitatively, comparing a patient’s latest MRI with the previous one.

Studies have shown that quantitative MRI analysis may provide a more comprehensive look at a patient’s prognosis and response to therapy, according to the companies. But quantitative measures tend to be available only for research, they said in a statement.

The pair will work on quantitative metrics for MRI scans that can improve decision-making in a clinical setting.

"Our shared goal is to create a solution that can be integrated into the existing radiology workflow, so it can become a seamless part of routine care—delivering new and valuable information to treating neurologists, without increasing the cost or burden on the healthcare system," said Christoph Zindel, M.D., senior vice president of magnetic resonance imaging at Siemens Healthineers, in the statement.

"Biogen believes that the availability of high-quality, standardized data at the point of care can lead to a deeper understanding of MS, more informed treatment decisions and, ultimately, improved patient outcomes,” said Richard Rudick, M.D., vice president of development sciences at Biogen. "We also recognize that the ability to generate research-quality data in the course of routine clinical practice can unlock the potential of the health care system to move towards precision medicine."

Biogen markets a number of MS meds, including Zinbryta, which earned FDA approval last year. While the drug offers a once-monthly, self-administered alternative to more frequent injections given by a healthcare professional, it was approved with a boxed warning on safety risks, including liver injury.