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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Google, Biogen, Seek Reasons for Advance of Multiple Sclerosis


“Our central thesis is to change health care from being reactive to proactive,” Conrad said in a telephone interview. “We’re trying to understand disease at its onset and see if we can intervene early.”
Using sensors, software and data analysis tools, the companies will collect and sift through data from people with the disease. The goal is to explain why multiple sclerosis progresses differently from patient to patient, said Rick Rudick, Biogen’s vice president of development sciences.
“We used to see patients at the beginning stages of MS -- two women would come in with optic neuritis, they couldn’t see out of one eye, they’d have some spots on the MRI scan, and they looked very similar,” said Rudick, who previously was director of the Cleveland Clinic’s MS program. “But as we followed them along, 10 years later, one would be a championship tennis player still and one would be in a nursing home. I never understood that.”
Biogen, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, leads the market with five MS drugs and is on a mission to use new technologies to gather round-the-clock data on patients. It has run a Fitbit study to see if fitness bands could be reliable data-gathering tools, and is developing an iPad app with the Cleveland Clinic to help physicians better assess their patients’ disease progression.

Different Paths

While Rudick and Conrad declined to comment on the terms of the deal, Conrad said it would probably be a multiyear effort.   
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