Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates is one of the investors in a £100 million project designed to create wrist-worn devices that could revolutionise the detection and treatment of dementia.
The smartwatch will monitor more than 30 indicators of possible onset of dementia including changes to a person’s walking style, sleep and speech, leading to much earlier diagnosis when it is hoped the condition is more treatable. The work is known in industry circles as Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases (EDoN).
A million people in Britain are being recruited to test the device in a project run by Alzheimer’s Research UK and funded in part by Mr Gates.
The collaboration aims to secure at least £67m over the first six years, with an ambition to attract up to £100m of total investment by 2030 to build and trial its diagnostic device on a large scale.
“Our research shows that 85% of UK adults would be willing to take a test that could tell them if they were in the early stages of a disease like Alzheimer’s, even before symptoms show. EDoN aims to harness the growing popularity of digital health technology and big data to revolutionise how we develop early tests for these diseases. Developing digital fingerprints that can be detected using phone apps or wearable technologies like smart watches would provide a low-cost approach to identifying those most at risk of disease,” says Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK.
“Identifying the very earliest changes in these diseases would transform research efforts today, giving us the best chance of stopping these diseases before the symptoms of dementia start to get in the way of life.”