News items Ritu Kapur Appointed as Professor by special appointment of Digital Biomarkers of Neurological Diseases

24 November 2023

Ritu Kapur has been appointed as a professor of Digital Biomarkers of Neurological Diseases at Radboud university medical center / Radboud University. This chair was established with the support of the company Verily Life Sciences. Kapur is developing wearable sensors, such as those found in a smartwatch, to better understand neurological disorders and, in the future, measure the effects of medications. The primary focus is on Parkinson's disease.

Individuals with Parkinson's disease often visit the hospital to assess the progression of their condition. However, are these measurements reliable? A hospital visit can be stressful and provides only a snapshot of the patient's status. Previous studies have shown that a smartwatch, continuously collecting data in a patient's daily life, provides a different and likely more reliable picture of a person's actual condition.

Wearable Sensors

Ritu Kapur, the head of Digital Biomarkers at Verily Life Sciences, is developing wearable sensors with her team to track symptoms in neurological conditions. In addition to Parkinson's, the company also focuses on cardiovascular diseases, oncology, and mental health. Kapur has been working closely with Radboudumc for many years and has been closely involved in various studies using wearable sensors.

‘We want to learn how a disease like Parkinson's progresses’, says Kapur. ‘That's why we collect a large amount of data in clinical studies. Only when we understand how a disease evolves can we determine if a medication is effective. This is currently a problem; new Parkinson's medications are being developed, but because the disease can take many years to progress, it is difficult to measure whether early interventions are effective or not. The research progresses slowly because we lack good measurements.’

Bringing Together Many Data Types

Therefore, Kapur is developing measurements with wearable sensors and a corresponding platform that can be used to accelerate clinical studies. This involves both software and hardware. Kapur explains: ‘We collect clinical data, molecular data, brain images, and sensor data, and link them all together. This way, we gather evidence that these sensors work and determine their value in personalized healthcare.’

As a professor, Kapur will dedicate most of her time to Parkinson's disease. She collaborates extensively with Luc Evers from the Neurology department at Radboudumc, who leads the AI for Parkinson's lab. She also serves as a consultant and advisor for other departments interested in digital measurements for patients. Additionally, she will contribute to collaborations between companies and public partners.

Career

Ritu Kapur earned a BSc in Human Biology from Stanford University (with honors) and completed a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of California. She worked at Google and NeuroPace before joining Verily Life Sciences, where she leads a team of more than eighty employees as the head of Digital Biomarkers.

Kapur served on the steering committee of the Foundation for the NIH Biomarkers Consortium for several years. She is also a partner in the scientific advisory committee of the Michael J. Fox Foundation. She holds multiple patents in the field of neuromodulation and digital biomarkers. Her appointment as a professor in the Neurology department at Radboudumc began on May 1, 2023, for a period of three years.

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Annemarie Eek

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