Roche deploying smartphone app to monitor patients during clinical trial of its Parkinson's med

App to monitor Parkinson's patients--Courtesy of Roche

Big Pharma player Roche ($RHHBY) will use an internally developed smartphone app to monitor the progress of patients during a Phase I clinical trial of its Parkinson's candidate.

The Android app will test patients' ability to conduct a variety of activities, including saying "aaah" for long as possible, balancing, walking 20 yards, dexterity (as measured by tapping buttons on the touchscreen). In addition, it will measure patients' hand tremor by asking them to hold the phone with their hand outstretched.

Subjects will be given Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini that has been configured for the sole purpose of remote patient monitoring, Roche says in a release.

The tests will complement traditional physician-led assessments such as those used on the standard Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale.

"The data collected will be used to predict patient UPDRS scores and study symptom fluctuations throughout the duration of the trial. In addition, patient adherence data will be used to assess the patient's willingness to adopt technology which will be beneficial for future trials," said Christian Czech, group leader in neuroscience biomarker experimental medicine, at Roche Pharma Research & Early Development (pRED).

According to the company website, Roche's Phase I Parkinson's candidate (RG7935) is a monoclonal antibody that has shown a reduction in neurodegeneration, at least in the lab. The Phase I trial is being run by development partner Prothena.

MobiHealthNews reports that the app was developed with the assistance of British mathematician Max Little, who heads the Parkinson's Voice Initiative. He previously described his approach in a Huffington Post article, writing, "Our technology could enable some radical breakthroughs, because voice-based tests can be administered remotely, and patients can do the tests themselves. Also, they are high speed, taking less than 30 seconds, and since they don't involve expert staff time, they are ultra-low cost. That makes the technology massively scalable."

In a statement, Anirvan Ghosh, the head of neuroscience discovery for pRED, said that physician-led assessments are limited to specific times and require an appointment, but the app will enable continuous measurement of PD fluctuation every day and throughout the day. Ultimately, we hope the app can be used in future clinical development to enable more objective measures on response to treatment to complement doctor assessments."

Roche's adoption of the app marks another victory for mobile medical technology and Big Data, both emerging forces in medicine.

The app is not the only mobile medical app in the in the Parkinson's arena. Parkinson's disease monitoring app mPower, which also measures patients' abilities, was one of the first 5 available for download on the iPhone via Apple's ResearchKit.

- read the release
- here's MobiHealthNew's take