IBM, Michael J. Fox Foundation to research Parkinson’s using AI

IBM is planning to use AI and machine learning to better understand Parkinson’s disease after being awarded a grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The foundation and IBM announced the grant and research plans in a blog post on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

The partnership allows IBM to continue research focused on using the technology to better understand and track neurological conditions. Parkinson's disease (PD) is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects as many as five million individuals worldwide. IBM has partnered with other agencies to use AI to tackle other healthcare issues.

Last July, IBM Watson Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) extended their partnership leveraging AI to analyze cancer data in veterans with cancer. Around the same time, IBM Watson Health and Guerbet signed an exclusive agreement to develop AI software solutions that detect, diagnose and help treat liver cancer.

Through the grant, the foundation will make available data from the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative, an observational study that collected anonymous longitudinal data from cohorts of Parkinson’s patients. IBM plans to develop AI and machine-learning models to learn from the data and specifically focus on symptoms associated with Parkinson’s and how those symptoms affect the progression of the disease.

The goal of the partnership is to provide a comprehensive view of the disease through longitudinal, clinical, behavioral and imaging assessments observed from patients in clinical settings, according to the blog post. Researchers hope the models will make it possible to predict disease progression with Parkinson’s patients.

“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 PD,” the post stated. “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.”