Biogen Highlights Digital Focus in MS Care at ECTRIMS


The company has made digital health a major focus of its research pipeline in multiple sclerosis.

While many digital therapeutics firms are startups based on the technology side of the industry, many established pharmaceutical industry players are also embracing digital tools.

Last month Biogen made digital health tools a centerpiece of their research presentations at the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) meeting in Amsterdam. The data presented at the conference aligns with a number of deals that the Cambridge, Massachusetts, pharmaceutical company has struck in recent months that are aimed at embedding a significant digital health component into the company’s overall multiple sclerosis (MS) portfolio.

Shibeshih Belachew

Shibeshih Belachew

Shibeshih Belachew, M.D., Ph.D., head of science for Biogen Digital Health, said in a press release that digital tools are a critical part of the company’s vision for MS care.

“Biogen is working to realize a future where multidimensional data are leveraged to better characterize and monitor MS disease progression and to predict therapy response at an individual level,” Belachew said.

Among the presentations at the ECTRIMS meeting were interim data from Biogen’s DigiToms study, which is designed to test the efficacy of a self-administered assessment of motor and cognitive function using the smartphone-based application Konectom. The test aimed to evaluate the cognitive processing speed (CPS) of people with multiple sclerosis and healthy controls. The company reported that the application’s CPS scores and response times were able to meaningfully discriminate between patients with MS and healthy controls. In addition, the company released data related to the design of the CPS tests. For now, Konectom is only available in limited research settings, the company said.

The company also said a technology-enabled version of the nine-hole peg test was able to calculate manual dexterity in a way that appeared to correlate with changes in disability level and quality of life in people with MS. Those data were based on more than 3,500 patients.

In addition to tracking changes in a patient’s disease, Biogen is also working on digital tools to predict treatment response in patients. The company presented data from a precision medicine model that they said might eventually be able to predict individual patient responses to treatment in clinical practice, thereby making it easier for clinicians to help guide patients to the best possible treatments.

“This year’s ECTRIMS presentations represent our ongoing digital health research and highlight progress in developing advanced measurement methods that aim to enhance drug development and personalized care for better patient outcomes,” Belachew said.

These latest data follow a number of partnerships Biogen has announced with digital therapeutic makers. In May, Biogen said it had entered into a licensing agreement with the digital therapeutics maker MedRhythms to develop and commercialize a prescription digital therapeutic for gait deficit in people with MS. The therapeutic candidate, called MR-004, uses rhythmic-auditory stimulation to synchronize the auditory and motor regions of the brain in order to improve a patient’s gait. The device includes sensors that track real-time gait data, thus providing feedback to improve the product’s performance. The technology is also being deployed to treat other neurological conditions.

In June, Biogen announced a deal with Twill (formerly Happify Health) to provide a patient education and engagement tool for people with multiple sclerosis. That product is designed to leverage Biogen’s MS research with Twill’s artificial intelligence systems to provide personalized intervention for patients.

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