NIH grants BioSensics $2.5M+ for Huntington-monitoring wearable

National Institutes of Health sign
The NIH grant will fuel the development of a wearable device based on previous work that BioSensics undertook with Teva and the University of Rochester.

BioSensics picked up more than $2.5 million in an NIH grant to develop a wearable device that monitors the motor symptoms of patients with Huntington disease. 

The device, dubbed HDWear, is based on the company's PAMSys platform, which uses sensors to detect motion, such as posture, gait, falls and postural changes. Designed for the continuous, real-time, remote monitoring of patients with Huntington disease, HDWear will enable physicians to see quantitative motor symptom scores that were previously only obtainable during in-clinic assessments, BioSensics said in a statement. 

Huntington, which most commonly appears in adults in their 30s or 40s, is a progressive brain disorder that causes cognitive and motor symptoms. Early symptoms include involuntary movements, poor coordination, trouble learning new information and irritability, the NIH says. As the disease progresses, patients may experience personality changes, a decline in thinking and reasoning and may have trouble walking, speaking and swallowing. 

“HD patients often have to travel long distances to be seen by knowledgeable HD clinicians. Travel is often very difficult both physically and financially for HD patients and their caregivers,” said George Yohrling, M.D., senior director of Mission and Scientific Affairs of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, in the statement. “The development and eventual integration of wearable biosensors into a HD clinic would allow for remote monitoring of a patient’s motor symptoms and could alleviate this unnecessary burden on the entire HD family.” 

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The grant will fund a two-year R&D project that expands upon pilot work that BioSensivs did in collaboration with Teva Pharmaceuticals and the University of Rochester Medical Center. The trio studied the use of a wearable sensor for the remote monitoring of upper extremity chorea—jerky, involuntary movements—in patients with Huntington disease. 

“We are grateful for the support provided by NIH for our research and development. We look forward to creating a comprehensive telecare solution for Huntington’s disease to facilitate clinical research and new drug development, and ultimately to improve and revolutionize HD care and care coordination,” said Joseph Gwin, Vice President of Research and Development at BioSensics. 

BioSensics and the University of Rochester Medical Center will also study the use of HDWear to detect patient response to anti-chorea drugs, as well as to monitor subtle motor abnormalities in the early stages of Huntington, before symptoms develop.