Eisai launches Gates-backed research collab to develop digital tools for dementia diagnosis, treatment

In an Avengers-like assembly of forces, a group of partners spanning life sciences, data science, academia and venture capital have come together with a goal of churning out a new spate of digital health tools to predict and monitor cases of dementia.

The research collaboration has been dubbed NEURii. Its founding members include Eisai, Gates Ventures, the University of Edinburgh, Health Data Research UK and LifeArc, a nonprofit medical research organization.

Their agreement will start with a two-year pilot period focused specifically in the U.K., according to Eisai’s Thursday announcement (PDF). The partners will pool their expertise and medical databases to build digital tools that will both complement current diagnostics and therapies—building on, in particular, Eisai’s existing research and development of neurology drugs—and fill in any gaps there to help prevent, spot and treat dementia and related diseases.

NEURii’s work will rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to help sift through the massive databases that’ll be used to shape the new tools. For example, one such tool might revolve around a tailored AI algorithm that analyzes those mountains of clinical data and a patient’s conversational patterns to either catch early signs of dementia or monitor its progression.

In building out its slate of pilot projects, the group will look for similar work—that is, the development of customized AI algorithms to analyze noninvasively collected digital biomarkers—originating at “highly recognized” academic centers across the U.K.

In addition to helping doctors better diagnose cases of dementia, predict high-risk patients and manage the condition, the resulting tools may also aid in the discovery of new drugs to further improve the treatment of the disease.

NEURii’s work is meant to be “low-cost and globally scalable,” according to Siddharthan Chandran, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the University of Edinburgh’s medical school and head of the university’s UK Dementia Research Institute, who will serve as NEURii’s academic lead.

“This new public-private partnership aims to gain a deeper understanding of the disease through trustworthy use of large datasets of anonymized health data in secure environments,” Andrew Morris, director of HDR UK, said in the announcement. “Our aim is to produce new data-driven products that will benefit patients and their families in detecting dementia, predicting its progress and better managing the disease.”

After the pilot period is over and the partners have constructed a solid pathway for launching new digital tools into widespread, real-world use through the U.K., they plan to “explore further opportunities to scale up the program developing digital health solutions worldwide,” per the announcement.