Merck taps Evidation to use apps, wearables to detect early stages of Alzheimer's

smartphone
Merck and Evidation will initially collect data from smartphones and wearable devices from elderly individuals with and without cognitive impairment. (DragonImages/Getty Images)

Merck has tapped Evidation to explore whether data collected from smartphone apps and wearables can help to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease early.
 
The two companies are partnering to research whether sensor data can be used to develop digital measures to accelerate drug development for the disease.
 
The work builds on Evidation’s previous research characterizing neurodegenerative disease using data from digital sensors and apps.
 
“We know that digital measures have the potential to make visible what is currently clinically invisible. This is an important, early step towards accelerating the development of new therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, and, together with Merck, we are committed to better understanding, diagnosing, and treating Alzheimer’s Disease at its earliest detectable stages,” Deborah Kilpatrick, Co-CEO of Evidation, said in a statement.
 
Merck and Evidation will initially collect data from smartphones and wearable devices from elderly individuals with and without cognitive impairment. Researchers plan to test whether the data collected remotely can differentiate between populations and understand variability and changes across individuals and over time.

RELATED: Evidation Health scores $153M to further transform its virtual research programs into digital interventions

 “Advances in passive remote monitoring are providing new compelling opportunities to identify novel endpoints and digital biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Michael Egan, vice president, Neuroscience Global Clinical Development, Merck Research Laboratories in a statement.

“This collaboration with Evidation will allow us to explore new and potentially faster ways to evaluate the potential of candidates in development for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” Egan said.
 
Current scientific understanding of Alzheimer’s disease suggests that pathophysiological changes, as well as subtle changes in cognition, sensory, and motor function associated with disease onset, are initiated years before the disease is typically clinically recognized. Evidation’s past research shows that smart devices may be useful tools in detecting neurodegenerative diseases before they manifest in a clinical setting.

Launched in 2012, Evidation's platform incorporates information from more than 100 continuous data sources, including patients’ own smartphones, wearables and reported outcomes, and links them with electronic health records, insurance claims, environmental reports and the rest.

RELATED: BARDA taps Evidation Health to digitally monitor healthcare workers for early COVID-19 symptoms

Evidation’s data platform ingests over 1 trillion data points annually, drawn from millions of participants across different disease areas, and feeds them through a virtual study design and execution engine that’s compliant with federal privacy and research regulations and good clinical practices.

The startup has worked with other life sciences companies on using sensor data for medical research. In 2019, the company, along with Eli Lilly & Co. and Apple, released initial study results that showed that a combination of consumer devices and mobile apps could potentially help spot people with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia related to Alzheimer’s, FierceBiotech reported.

Last year, the U.S. government’s experimental medical research arm teamed up with Evidation to develop a digital means of detecting a person’s early symptoms of COVID-19. 

Earlier this year, the company banked a $153 million funding round to accelerate its work, including building out its digital Achievement program, which signs up participants for research studies from a pool of over 4 million users.