Dutch researchers partner with Google sister Verily on major Parkinson's study

The Verily Study Watch from a Google sister firm
The Study Watch from Google sister firm Verily will be used at Radboud University's for a new Parkinson's disease investigation. (photo: Verily)

Google parent company Alphabet turned heads last week with the announcement of a sleek new smartwatch from its life sciences subsidiary Verily. Though not planned for the consumer market, the Verily Study Watch will be part of a joint research project between the firm and Radboud University in Nijmegen to examine the effect of multiple factors on the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

The university, its medical center and ParkinsonNet, a non-profit based at the hospital, will team up with Verily to compile an extraordinary amount of daily data from Parkinson's patients across the Netherlands. “Our vision is to identify new biological markers that will allow us to track the progression of the disease more sensitively and potentially provide a foundation for new and more personalized treatments,” Verily stated in a news release.

Information from the wearable devices will aggregate vital signs and physical activity. This will be combined with data gleaned from brain imaging and molecular analysis, the company said.

It is hoped that data collected on a daily basis “from a nationally representative cohort to identify patterns that affect the progression of the disease in a methodical and robust way.”

Two professors at the University will also assist with implementing a new encryption method to help keep the patient data secure.

The Study Watch uses sensors to record the electrical activity of the heart, heart rate, movement, and electrodermal activity. It has enough memory to continuously collect raw data for several weeks in real time, and the battery can last for up to a week before it needs to be recharged.

Almost no medical information is shared with the patient via the smartwatch, a feature which could limit the watch’s effect on the patient’s mindset during a long-term study.