Removing silos and pooling expertise will change medical research and benefit more patients

Boston, 2nd November, 2016The Pistoia Alliance, a global, not-for-profit alliance that works to lower barriers to innovation in life sciences R&D, is calling on the pharmaceutical industry to support greater collaboration around wearable device initiatives. This theme echoed at The Pistoia Alliance’s annual member conference in Boston earlier this month. Sohini Chowdhury, senior vice president of research partnerships at The Michael J Fox Foundation  (MJFF), the world’s largest non-profit funder of Parkinson’s research, discussed the need for increased cooperation between all links in the life sciences research chain to realise the potential of technology in R&D.

“From patients to physicians, from scientists to trial sponsors – everyone wants more data,” commented Ms Chowdhury. “Wearable devices will be a crucial ‘self-reported’ source of that data, but we know there is still a hill to climb toward field-wide integration. Now, we’re trying to close the loop, and explore the value of wearables for the entire ecosystem. By pooling our resources, we can build consensus and make these reams of data accessible – which will advance our understanding of disease and testing of new therapies.”

During her keynote, Ms Chowdhury also spoke about MJFF’s early wearable device projects. One project includes a wearable sensor in a smartwatch, which transmits data via a smartphone to the cloud. This enables researchers to monitor patients’ movements 24/7, collecting 150 data points per second (over 4 million data points per person per day). With such a large amount of data collected, one of the biggest challenges is in analysing that data. Data scientists need the input of clinical experts to direct their analyses, and scientists and researchers need the help of computational experts to ‘crunch’ the numbers. This kind of collaborative effort will become fundamental to unearthing insights from wearable device data and is a core aim of The Pistoia Alliance.

“The Pistoia Alliance applauds the excellent work that MJFF has been doing, to encourage collaborative efforts that will accelerate research in the field of Parkinson’s. When we take a cross-industry view we can see, however, that many pharmaceutical companies are developing their own wearable devices and applications, in all therapeutic areas – without common industry standards to govern quality and interoperability,” commented Dr Steve Arlington, President of The Pistoia Alliance. “The result is that considerable amounts of time and money are wasted developing unique solutions that cannot interact, and with no facility to share the data gathered. This fragmented approach benefits neither patients nor payers in the slightest. The lack of communication, whether it be between countries or companies, is a significant barrier to the development of new therapies. The Pistoia Alliance was formed to overcome these barriers to innovation, and to offer a unique platform to foster collaboration.”

The Pistoia Alliance creates initiatives to avoid the waste of time and resources resulting from siloed research programmes. Its projects bring together key constituents to identify root causes of R&D inefficiencies; it has also created a proven legal framework for open innovation. One of the Pistoia Alliance’s key successes is its role as a founding partner in not-for-profit foundation, The tranSMART Foundation, an open source platform where interoperable data can be accessed and merged with external proprietary datasets from other parties.

“The tranSMART Foundation was incubated by The Pistoia Alliance, and formed as a result of collaborative effort between scientists all over the world,” commented Keith Elliston, CEO of The tranSMART Foundation. “New data-types – such as that from wearable devices or Internet of Things sensors – are growing in volume all the time. Making sense of all of these data requires a collective endeavour and a platform which improves accessibility. At tranSMART, we are able to provide this environment to support organizations such as the MJFF to achieve its mission.”

For more information about The Pistoia Alliance, please visit:

For more information about The Michael J Fox Foundation, please visit:

For more information about The tranSMART Foundation, please visit:


About The Pistoia Alliance:

The Pistoia Alliance is a global, not-for-profit members’ organization made up of life science companies, technology and service providers, publishers, and academic groups working to lower barriers to innovation in life science and healthcare R&D. It was conceived in 2007 and incorporated in 2009 by representatives of AstraZeneca, GSK, Novartis and Pfizer who met at a conference in Pistoia, Italy. Its projects transform R&D through pre-competitive collaboration. It overcomes common R&D obstacles by identifying the root causes, developing standards and best practices, sharing pre-competitive data and knowledge, and implementing technology pilots. There are currently over 80 member companies; members collaborate on projects that generate significant value for the worldwide life sciences R&D community, using the Pistoia Alliance’s proven framework for open innovation.

About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
As the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson’s disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson’s patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $650 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson’s research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson’s disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson’s awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world. For more information, visit us at, on Facebook or Twitter.

About The tranSMART Foundation

The tranSMART Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides an open-source, cloud-based, data-sharing and analysis platform that enables scientists at universities, disease foundations, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies around the world to share pre-competitive data in a way that saves money and time in translating research findings into new therapies and diagnostic tools.  Current Gold Members of the Foundation include: Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, Takeda, and the University of Michigan.  Founded to steward the tranSMART platform, the Foundation is headquartered in Wakefield, Massachusetts with Centers of Excellence in Ann Arbor, Mich.; London, England; Boston, Mass.; and Amsterdam, Netherlands. The tranSMART Foundation can also be found on the web at

Media Contacts:

Carmen Nitsche, Pistoia Alliance
+001 510-589-3355 /

Michelle Allison, Spark Communications
+44 207 436 0420 /

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