Innodem, Novartis Team Up on Trial Testing Eye-tracking Technology

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by Patricia Inacio, PhD |

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eye-tracking technology trial | Multiple Sclerosis News Today | Innodem and Novartis partner/handshake illustration

Innodem Neurosciences is teaming up with Novartis Canada on a breakthrough clinical trial to evaluate if Innodem’s digital biomarker eye-tracking technology can monitor disease progression in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

The trial will test Innodem’s “easy-to-use, affordable technology,” which works using visible light, with no special infrared cameras required.

“This partnership is the result of an ongoing collaboration that was architected over the past two years,” Marc Reeves, co-founder and chief business officer of Innodem, said in a press release.

“It embodies our common goal and commitment to improving quality of care for people living with MS globally,” he said.

MS and other neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by progressive damage to nerve cells that ultimately results in their death. This damage also can affect the brain circuits of the eye, leading to eye movement abnormalities and eye problems.

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Detecting subtle changes in eye movement may have the ability to detect disease progression that sometimes isn’t yet evident on MRI scans. This could lead to an earlier detection of disease progression, and earlier changes in treatment with a goal of preventing further progression.

“A clinician whose patient shows objective signs of progressive MS may recommend a better adapted treatment which could, if detected early, prevent this individual from developing further disability,” said Étienne de Villers-Sidani, MD, a cognitive neurologist and the main founder and CEO of Innodem.

Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), Innodem’s patented eye-tracking technology is able to capture eye movement biomarkers — called EMBs — and gaze mapping biomarkers, known as GMBs, that may assist in patient monitoring.

EMBs include classic measures of eye movement — such as saccades, pursuit, velocity, latency, and amplitude — that serve as surrogates of brain health. Meanwhile, GMBs are used to assess various aspects of cognitive function, including attention, processing speed, and working memory.

Both biomarkers are obtained through a number of tasks from an app, which can be completed in a matter of minutes. This means that patients can be assessed in a clinic’s waiting room or at home, according to Innodem.

Remote self-testing also helps to monitor patients who are unable to visit their clinic during the pandemic or live in rural areas with limited access to a neurologist.

“No practical companion diagnostic test currently exists to detect progressive MS, and I believe EMBs and GMBs can fill that important gap,” said de Villers-Sidani.

The upcoming trial, a multi-year partnership between the two companies, will last until 2027. Participants will be evaluated with Innodem’s eye-tracking technology twice a month.

The data will be correlated with current standard measures of MS disability, cognitive function, and functional performance, including the Expanded Disability Status Scale, the Brief International Cognitive Assessment for MS, and the Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite scores.

“The financing from Novartis will fund a carefully designed cross-sectional and longitudinal MS study that will last until 2027,” de Villers-Sidani said. “As a practicing neurologist, I’m hopeful that the study will validate just how Innodem’s technology can assist clinicians in monitoring disease progression as early as possible to improve MS treatment and patient outcomes.

Innodem and Novartis both are hopeful that the technology will make it easier to monitor MS progression at low cost.

“At Novartis, we are committed to innovation and becoming the leaders in the health tech space,” said Andrea Marazzi, country pharma organization head at Novartis Canada.

“After reviewing existing solutions, we selected Innodem’s proprietary eye tracking technology and believe it to be the most promising and one that can easily scale due to its ease-of-use,” Marazzi said.

“We anticipate that the trial will confirm its relevancy so that more people living with MS and treating clinicians can have access to it in Canada and across the world,” he added.