Pistoia Alliance_logoThe Pistoia Alliance, a global, not-for-profit alliance that works to lower barriers to innovation in life sciences R&D, is calling on the pharmaceutical industry to support greater collaboration around wearable device initiatives.

This theme echoed at The Pistoia Alliance’s annual member conference in Boston earlier this month. Sohini Chowdhury, Senior Vice President of Research Partnerships at The Michael J Fox Foundation  (MJFF), the world’s largest non-profit funder of Parkinson’s research, discussed the need for increased cooperation between all links in the life sciences research chain to realize the potential of technology in R&D.

“From patients to physicians, from scientists to trial sponsors, everyone wants more data,” commented Ms Chowdhury. “Wearable devices will be a crucial ‘self-reported’ source of that data, but we know there is still a hill to climb toward field-wide integration. Now, we’re trying to close the loop, and explore the value of wearables for the entire ecosystem. By pooling our resources, we can build consensus and make these reams of data accessible – which will advance our understanding of disease and testing of new therapies.”

During her keynote, Ms Chowdhury also spoke about MJFF’s early wearable device projects. One project includes a wearable sensor in a smartwatch, which transmits data via a smartphone to the cloud. This enables researchers to monitor patients’ movements 24/7, collecting 150 data points per second (more than 4 million data points per person per day).

With such a large amount of data collected, one of the biggest challenges is in analysing that data. Data scientists need the input of clinical experts to direct their analyses, and scientists and researchers need the help of computational experts to ‘crunch’ the numbers. This kind of collaborative effort will become fundamental to unearthing insights from wearable device data and is a core aim of The Pistoia Alliance.

“The Pistoia Alliance applauds the excellent work that MJFF has been doing, to encourage collaborative efforts that will accelerate research in the field of Parkinson’s. When we take a cross-industry view we can see, however, that many pharmaceutical companies are developing their own wearable devices and applications, in all therapeutic areas – without common industry standards to govern quality and interoperability,” commented Dr Steve Arlington, President of The Pistoia Alliance.

“The result is that considerable amounts of time and money are wasted developing unique solutions that cannot interact, and with no facility to share the data gathered. This fragmented approach benefits neither patients nor payers in the slightest. The lack of communication, whether it be between countries or companies, is a significant barrier to the development of new therapies. The Pistoia Alliance was formed to overcome these barriers to innovation, and to offer a unique platform to foster collaboration.”

The Pistoia Alliance creates initiatives to avoid the waste of time and resources resulting from siloed research programmes. Its projects bring together key constituents to identify root causes of R&D inefficiencies; it has also created a proven legal framework for open innovation. One of the Pistoia Alliance’s key successes is its role as a founding partner in not-for-profit foundation, The tranSMART Foundation, an open source platform where interoperable data can be accessed and merged with external proprietary datasets from other parties.

“The tranSMART Foundation was incubated by The Pistoia Alliance, and formed as a result of collaborative effort between scientists all over the world,” commented Keith Elliston, CEO of The tranSMART Foundation. “New data-types – such as that from wearable devices or Internet of Things sensors – are growing in volume all the time. Making sense of all of these data requires a collective endeavour and a platform which improves accessibility. At tranSMART, we are able to provide this environment to support organizations such as the MJFF to achieve its mission.”