IBM and Pfizer join forces for real-time patient monitoring system for Parkinson's

IBM Research SVP Arvind Krishna

IBM ($IBM) is teaming up with pharma giant Pfizer ($PFE) to create a patient-centric monitoring system for Parkinson's disease. The deal adds to IBM's recent collaborations with life sciences and med tech companies as it expands its industry footprint.

Neither side is revealing financial details. But IBM and Pfizer said that they will work together to develop a system that uses sensors, mobile devices and machine learning to give doctors and researchers real-time information about a patient's condition. Ultimately, the technology could help physicians and scientists better understand disease progression, improve treatment decisions and clinical trials and spur R&D, the companies said in a statement.

"With the proliferation of digital health information, one area that remains elusive is the collection of real-time physiological data to support disease management," SVP of IBM Research Arvind Krishna said in a statement. "We are testing ways to create a system that passively collects data with little to no burden on the patient, and to provide doctors and researchers with objective, real-time insights that we believe could fundamentally change the way patients are monitored and treated."

The companies' system will measure different health indicators such as motor function, cognition, sleep and daily activities including eating and dressing to show how well treatment is working. Doctors can use the information to tweak patients' treatment. And researchers can use the information to uncover new, improved therapies for Parkinson's disease.

The collaboration comes at a critical moment. About 60,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Parkinson's each year, according to data from the Parkinson's Disease Foundation cited by the companies, and 7 to 10 million people suffer from the disease around the world.

IBM and Pfizer want to move their system "into initial clinical testing quickly," the companies said, responding to a growing need for improved patient monitoring technology. The companies are also planning to get together an external advisory board comprised of patient groups, advocacy organizations, clinicians and neuroscientists "to ensure the needs of patients guide the program."

IBM's research with Pfizer adds to its growing list of projects with pharma and med tech companies. Last year, IBM's Watson Health division said that it would work with Danish pharma Novo Nordisk ($NVO) to develop new diabetes treatments and devices through the cloud.

In January, device heavyweight Medtronic ($MDT) and IBM revealed a prototype of a smartphone app that could eventually predict low blood sugar levels in diabetics up to three hours prior to onset. The pair plans to add more features to the app to personalize it for patients.

"By collecting real-time streaming data, combining it with contextual information, and analyzing it for signals and patterns, we at Medtronic believe it may one day be possible to help people make the right decisions at critical moments in their day-to-day lives," Annette Brüls, Medtronic's president of global diabetes services and solutions, said at the time.

- read the statement