Biogen, Apple to launch virtual study on cognitive health

Biogen and Apple plan to launch a virtual study to identify early signs of decline in cognitive health. The goal is to see how devices, such an Apple Watch of iPhone, could be used to monitor cognitive performance over time and identify early signs of mild cognitive impairment, which is estimated to affect 15% to 20% of adults over age 65.

The multi-year, observational study is expected to launch in the second half of 2021, including both young and older adults with a range of cognitive performance. Biogen and Apple have not yet specified how many people they plan to enroll in the study and what biomarkers they will specifically be observing.

“Cognitive decline can be an early symptom of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia. The successful development of digital biomarkers in brain health would help address the significant need to accelerate patient diagnoses and empower physicians and individuals to take timely action,” Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos said in a news release.

The study would be a new approach for Biogen, which submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration last year for approval of its controversial Alzheimer’s treatment. At JP Morgan, Vounatsos expressed optimism over the drug’s prospects, despite an FDA advisory panel recommending against its approval last year.

It would also be another step for Apple in its move into research. Last year, the tech giant launched a study with Johnson & Johnson to see if an Apple Watch feature to detect atrial fibrillation could reduce Medicare patients’ stroke risk.

Researchers also hope the study will answer other questions related to cognition and aging.

” These additional research topics will be disclosed to study participants as part of the informed consent process. In addition, Biogen believes this study will help catalyze Biogen’s capabilities in conducting other large-scale virtual studies in the future,” Chirfi Guindo, Biogen’s executive vice president of global product strategy and commercialization, said in a news release.

Meanwhile, researchers from around the world are looking to track the long-term effects of Covid-19 on the brain. A large study funded by the Alzheimer’s Association will follow patients who have been discharged from the hospital with Covid-19 over the next 18 months. The goal is to better understand the long-term effect on brain cognition and function, as well as whether there is an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Photo credit: mrspopman, Getty Images

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