Researchers will utilise big data analysis to track the lives of those living with multiple sclerosis (MS) in a project to improve the evaluation of treatments.
Conducted by Imperial College London (ICL) and biopharmaceutical firm Biogen Idec, the OPTIMISE project will develop and deploy tools for collecting a wide range of data from people with MS in addition to routine clinical assessments over an initial three-year period.
MS affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing a range of symptoms including problems with muscle movement, balance and vision.
“This important collaborative project…will enable a new level of clinical research for MS
Principal investigator Paul Matthews
According to statistics, around two million people worldwide suffer from MS - of which more than 10,000 live in the UK.
The OPTIMISE project is designed to integrate brain scans, genomics data, biomarkers from blood samples, self-reported quality of life measures and data from sensors that track movement into a single database.
One of the main aims of the OPTIMISE project is to allow researchers to better monitor outcomes and evaluate new treatments.
This will also help to develop more personalised therapeutic approaches based on an understanding of the individual factors that contribute to the progression of MS, the researchers said.
Principal investigator on the OPTIMISE project Paul Matthews said: “This important collaborative project…will enable a new level of clinical research for MS.
“It will aggregate data from MS patients and their carers to provide a detailed picture of how the disease affects them and how well current treatments work.”
This year, ICL has launched two bilateral big data partnerships to coincide with the launch of its big data lab in January. Both projects form part of ICL’s wider Data Science Institute.
The OPTIMISE project will use a custom-made software platform developed at the Big Data Institute at ICL to store, curate and analyse data.
Though OPTIMISE is currently in the planning stages, patients taking part will use the system to report outcomes and also to discuss the project with other participants and provide feedback to the researchers, an ICL statement said.
Smartphone apps will capture GPS data from movement sensors to monitor patient mobility.
“We are moving from pilots on 100-150 participants this year to a project that will be rolled out across four NHS trusts and then more widely in the UK,” Matthews said.
“The objective is to build towards a representative population of at least a few thousand.”
The project will initially pilot the tools through MS centres in Imperial and three other UK institutions before expanding access to the approach for researchers worldwide, the researchers said.