UMass Amherst Feature Story Examines Industry-Academic Collaboration between Kinesiology Alumni
An industry-academic collaboration being led by kinesiology alumni Michael Busa '15PhD and Jen Blankenship '10, '13MS, '17PhD is featured in a story on real-world activity sensing for patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Through a pilot study funded through the Massachusetts AI and Technology Center for Connected Care in Aging & Alzheimer’s Disease (MassAITC), they aim to develop and validate algorithms to capture measures of real-world walking behavior in patients with AD, with the potential to benefit clinical trials in the future. Currently, reliable methods to capture aspects of walking behavior do not exist for older adults with AD.
“I think there’s a lot of value in bringing together academics and people in industry in one space to push innovation forward,” said UMass Amherst alumna Jen Blankenship, a senior research scientist at VivoSense, a small California-based company, which develops and validates real-world digital clinical measures for use in regulated clinical trials. “Oftentimes, those of us in industry have the interest and entrepreneurial ideas to make moves happen and advance technologies but lack the scientific resources and facilities that UMass offers. Bringing together these two entities to move the needle is very powerful.”
Busa serves as the director of the Center for Human Health and Performance, one of the IALS core facilities on the UMass Amherst campus. In the pilot study, participants with and without mild AD perform walking tasks while wearing activity monitors in the Human Motion Lab. Participants are also asked to wear activity monitors in their homes for two weeks. The study team will use data collected in the lab to develop machine learning algorithms to derive measures of real-world walking behavior in AD, then, those algorithms will be applied to the at-home monitoring data obtained in the study to determine if there are differences in real-world walking behaviors in patients with and without AD.
“There’s a lot of interest in using wearable sensors in regulated clinical trials, but the barrier to adoption is acceptance by the FDA,” explained Busa. “Through this research, we aim to provide the evidence needed for the FDA to accept the validity of these measures.”
MassAITC is a NIH-funded collaboration between UMass Amherst, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brandeis University, and Northeastern University. Read more about its work here.