Digital Health Innovations Get Major Boost with ResearchKit Platform

IBTtech recently hosted a team of researchers from Duke University at an event in Tel Aviv, geared at sharing insights on the potential of Apple’s ResearchKit platform for digital health innovation. Interview with Professor Guillermo Sapiro.


Prof. Deborah Estrin, Prof. Guillermo Sapiro and Ruth Poliakine Baruchi

“I see no reason that Israel cannot be a major player in the digital health arena, it has just the right environment,” says Prof. Guillermo Sapiro, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University.  One tool that can help startups bring to life breakthrough ideas in health is Apple’s ResearchKit.

“ResearchKit is a free platform that Apple developed to enable large scale proof of concepts,” explains Yael Zifroni Sommer, Director of IBTtech. “This tool could be very significant in helping startups to provide data to backup their benefit claims.  Prof. Sapiro presented a fascinating case study showing how he and his team used the platform in their autism research.”

“This type of event is exactly what we, the startups and other IBTtech members, expect to get from our participation in IBTtech,” says Ruth Poliakini Baruchi, Founder and CEO of MyndYou, which develops and markets an AI-based solution designed to enable remote care services to older adults, living with different levels of cognitive change in the home environment, and just received a BIRD Foundation grant together with their US partner Genesis Rehab Services. “Professor Sapiro’s case study and explanation on how his research utilized ResearchKit was both enriching and opened up our thinking on how we could potentially use such a platform in our activity.”


Prof. Sapiro presenting on ResearchKit

Professor Sapiro and his team were motivated by the pressing need to lower the age of diagnosis of autism.  The age at which autism can be diagnosed is a year and a half, but the average age at which it is diagnosed is actually 5 years of age, in the U.S.  These early years are critical, as earlier diagnosis, and care, are key to vastly improving care of autistic children.

“We recorded meetings between children and clinicians on video, and created an application that could code children’s behavior at the level of clinicians.  As there are not enough clinicians working today, such an app could bridge this dangerous gap.”  Professor Sapiro’s trial videoed 2,500 children in a year, and the next version is planned to include 10,000 participants, and will be able to use every sensor available on the smarthphone, towards a solid diagnosis tool even without the involvement of a clinician.

The discussion at the IBTtech event was lively, and covered many aspects of the platform and its possible uses, including ethical questions, validation, and areas of care such as depression, ADHD, dementia Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Deborah Estrin, Professor of Computer Science and Associate Dean at Cornell Tech, also spoke at the event: “The proliferation of virtually free computing, connectivity, and sensing has created fertile ground for exciting advancements in mobile health and medicine.  We can now develop and deliver personalized assessments, “digital biomarkers”, that will be key  to answering many crucial questions in medicine.  The open software framework, ResearchKit™, and its companion for Android ResearchStack, are key to moving the ecosystem forward, as is demonstrated by the impressive and impactful work of Prof. Sapiro and his team. These kinds of events – bringing together entrepreneurs and researchers – are important to accelerate the sharing of information,” said Professor Estrin.

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