The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and IBM have teamed up to share data and computing power to more accurately track the onset and progression of Parkinson’s Disease.

MJF is providing a grant and data from its Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative for IBM to develop AI-assisted methods to better understand PD across a range of patients. With the goal of arriving at a more comprehensive understanding of the disease and how it advances, the partnership also hopes to identify unique cohorts in the patient population using AI and machine learning.

IBM has already developed machine-learning systems that can accurately diagnose Parkinson’s 81 percent of the time by recognizing PD-specific speech impairments against a control of healthy patients. They have also created algorithms to “predict with a high accuracy the effect of medications in treating the symptoms” of PD.

Further research into the progression of PD as well as trying to find unique sub-groups of patients will enable clinicians to transform care as they understand how the disease develops on a case by case basis. These insights will hopefully lead to more targeted medication and research trials as well as more personalized care and management for patients moving forward

Machine learning is being used to better identify the risk class of a patient and drive greater personalized care. MJF has been working to leverage its data to track disease progression for a while, and the partnership with IBM is an example of large AI players working to identify specific progressions in an illness. The work is similar to research into dementia that is being done by identifying key biomarkers and determining better diagnosis criteria.

“Ultimately, all of our work will ladder up to the hope and promise of the possibility that one day we may accurately be able to predict the onset and progression of Parkinson’s,” said Soumya Ghosh of IBM Research. “The ability to accurately predict the progression of PD can help with early detection and, through appropriately timed interventions, allow PD patients and their care providers to better manage the disease.”

Benjamin Harris is a Maine-based freelance writer and and former new media producer for HIMSS Media.
Twitter: @BenzoHarris.

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