William Marks, Verily

 “The Dutch healthcare system promotes an innovative approach to comprehensive Parkinson’s care and research. We saw a collaboration with professor Bloem and his team as an ideal partnership to advance our shared goals of understanding the condition more thoroughly and discovering new insights to provide improved and personalised treatments for patients living with Parkinson’s disease.”

Highlight: Joining forces on Parkinson’s Disease

Radboudumc and Verily join forces on multi-year research study on Parkinson’s Disease

With support from Top Sector LSH this large collaboration was launched in 2016.

In September 2016 Radboud University Medical Center, Radboud University, ParkinsonNet and Verily started their partnership on Parkinson’s disease. The first conversations and negotiations between the Dutch knowledge institution and the American Verily Life Sciences (an Alphabet Company) started in 2015. With their shared ambitions for personalised care for Parkinson’s patients the two partners team up perfectly. Top Sector LSH is proud of this large collaboration and spoke with both parties to find out what they want to achieve.


Collective mission on personalised therapy

More than 10 million people worldwide (44,000 in the Netherlands) are affected by Parkinson’s Disease (PD). For these patients, there is an urgent need to develop personalised therapies to improve their lives significantly. Professor Bas Bloem from the Radboudumc is working on this. He initiated ParkinsonNet to provide optimal care to people with PD. ParkinsonNet started on a local level in Nijmegen in 2004, but has since developed into a national care infrastructure which focuses on five areas: (1) establishing integrated care networks, (2) selection of professionals specifically trained to work in PD, (3) educating patients and patient empowerment, (4) transparency about actions and outcomes, and (5) incorporation of technology. The collective mission to reply to the urgent need of personalised therapies for PD brought ParkinsonNet and Verily together. This public-private partnership will bring together internationally recognised experts in PD at Radboudumc, the comprehensive care network of ParkinsonNet (comprised of 3000 medical and allied health professionals covering all people with Parkinson’s disease in the Netherlands), and the analytical power of Verily.

“We will accomplish personalised treatment using sophisticated molecular analyses, advanced brain imaging, and wearable devices. The sensors in these devices are capable of measuring key information like vital signs and activity level, making it possible to perform in-depth analyses and characterisations of the disease,” says William Marks, MD, MS-HCM,  Head of Clinical Neurology at Verily.

Contributions to research study

The aim of this multi-year longitudinal study on PD is to obtain insights into the variety of causes, progression and responses to the treatment of PD so that new therapies can be developed and matched. Therefore, Verily was in search of a suitable network with minimal dropout. This is something the Radboudumc offers via ParkinsonNet, which is able to spread technology and provide the operable community-based network for studies. An initial group of 650 patients with early PD (disease duration 0-5 years) will be included. They will be assessed at the Radboudumc three times. During these assessments serum, plasma, DNA, RNA, cerebrospinal fluid, stools, and clinical scales for disease progression will be measured. Meanwhile the patients will be tracked in their daily activities via the advanced Verily smartwatch. And data analyses will be performed using the latest advanced tools and new data analysis platforms.

Bas Bloem: “We think that patients will benefit from data sharing, this is why we will make the entire data set available to all qualified researchers worldwide who share our dream of developing precision medicine for patients with PD. Allowing multiple research groups to work with this rich data at simultaneously will greatly accelerate the likelihood of discovery of breakthrough findings.”

Secure use of data

Radboudumc offers the network of ParkinsonNet and Verily provides in kind contributions (the smart watch technology, the sample analyses – including e.g.  advanced microbiome analyses – and the analytical power) as well as financial support. The data collected will be made available to qualified researchers working on PD. The study makes use of a novel privacy method called polymorphic encryption and pseudonymisation (PEP), developed by professors Bart Jacobs and Eric Verheul of the Digital Security Group at the Institute for Computing and Information Sciences at Radboud University.

Start of partnership

This large collaboration is a great example of a bottom-up partnership, where both parties meet each other's needs. It all started with Bas Bloem who responded to a Verily request for a game changing proposal on the topic of PD. Upon which Verily responded enthusiastically. The team then decided to bring on Top Sector LSH which provided the right tools via the PPP-Allowance. The Memorandum of Understanding of Top Sector LSH and Verily marked the official start of the partnership. And now, more than a year later this great collaboration has been formed and we cannot wait to see the outcomes!

“The Top Sector LSH played a crucial role in realising this collaboration,” according to Bas Bloem.

The collaboration officially started on 30 September 2016 and the entire infrastructure for the research is now being set up. The first patients are likely to be included from April 2017 onwards.

Contribution of Top Sector LSH

  • Crucial role in negotiations with Verily and ParkinsonNet
  • Substancially financial support