Roche's Floodlight MS app mines 'hidden' data to advance disease mapping

(Beth Snyder Bulik) Cannes Lions Health features pharma agencies and drugmakers such as Roche talking about its multiple sclerosis app. (Bulik)

CANNES, FRANCE—Multiple sclerosis symptoms can be confusing: They differ person to person, and even day to day for the same patients. Roche's Floodlight Open app aims to clear that confusion for individuals—and deliver data for broader understanding of the disease.

The opt-in Floodlight app is designed to be easy to use and to collect data from multiple inputs all day, every day. Over time, it paints an overall picture of each patient's particular case.

“We understand patients, but it’s more like a blurry picture. With new technology, there is an opportunity to get much closer to how patients experience their disease and how they are affected every day,” Anne Marie Li-Kwai-Cheung, Roche’s global head of multiple sclerosis and lead for the neuroscience personalized health program, said on the sidelines at Lions Health.

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The smartphone app works partly by sitting in a patient’s pocket gathering passive data. Patients actively contribute by completing digital activities—like tracing patterns with their fingers or pinching a digital tomato—and self-reporting their symptoms. 

The combined data give patients and caregivers a more accurate view of an individual’s disease, but they also contribute to a de-identified database that is open for use by researchers, data scientists and even other drug developers.

Sara Bamossy, co-CEO of Pitch, the agency working on the project, said, “The app is designed to be very patient-friendly. The Floodlight website uses clear and transparent language, so you can understand not only how it works but why you would want to participate.”

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The ultimate goal? Advance real-time remote patient monitoring with smartphones. And not just in multiple sclerosis. Roche is already piloting a similar program for people with Parkinson’s disease.

“We hope it will drive smarter, more efficient R&D, because the studies we do using the current clinical endpoints are very long and very large. It makes it quite burdensome for patients and physicians, and it increases the likelihood that a study might fail even when a drug works,” Li-Kwai-Cheung said. “Having a tool that’s more sensitive and precise to measure disease progression is a big benefit to a company that’s investigating new therapies.”

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