The U of M's first NIH Center of Excellence — the Mobile Sensor Data-To-Knowledge Center — is just a few months old, but it is already creating a culture of research excellence at the University of Memphis. The NIH awarded the University a prestigious $10.8 million Center of Excellence grant that will focus on the exploding mobile health (mHealth) field. The grant is part of a $32 million NIH investment that establishes 12 Centers of Excellence across the country that each will tackle specific data science challenges. The Centers are developing new strategies to analyze and leverage the increasingly complex biomedical data sets, often referred to as Big Data. The U of M's work entails collaboration among 27 investigators from 11 universities: Cornell, Georgia Tech, University of Michigan, Rice, Northwestern, Ohio State, UCLA, UC-San Diego, UC-San Francisco, University of Massachusetts and the U of M. The U of M Center will spend the next four years developing innovative tools to make it easier to gather, analyze and interpret health data generated by mobile and wearable sensors. It will directly target reducing hospital readmission in congestive heart failure patients and preventing relapse in abstinent smokers.

Its lead scientist, U of M computer scientist Dr. Santosh Kumar, provides an update on recent developments at the Center:

Since its launch last October, the NIH Center of Excellence for Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge (MD2K) has witnessed several exciting new developments:

The MD2K Center is using five sources of mobile sensor data to reduce hospital readmission in congestive heart failure patients and to improve smoking cessation. The first source is a wearable chest-band called AutoSense that collects electrocardiogram (ECG), respiration and accelerometry and can be used to monitor stress (continuously from ECG and/or respiration) and smoking (from respiration). Second is a smart-watch with inertial sensors that can infer smoking and eating events by tracking arm movements of an individual. (The MD2K Center is negotiating with several large technology vendors to use their recently released programmable smart-watches that have a display and vibration capabilities.) In addition to monitoring eating and smoking behaviors, the display or vibration of a smart-watch can also be used to deliver sensor-triggered intervention. The third source is a radio frequency (RF) based micro-radar sensor, called EasySense, which can non-invasively measure heart activity and lung fluid volume in congestive heart failure patients. Fourth is a smart eyeglass that captures video in the direction of a wearer's gaze. This is used to detect exposure to smoking cues, such as seeing a cigarette advertisement, and simultaneously assessing the state of the person (e.g., fatigue) by monitoring the eye itself. Finally, data from the smart-phone's Global Positioning System can be used to infer geo-exposure for factors such as proximity to point-of-sale for tobacco or proximity to fast food (sodium rich) restaurants.

MD2K is developing innovative tools to make it easier to collect, integrate, manage, visualize, analyze and interpret health data generated by mobile and wearable sensors such as the ones mentioned above. The goal of the big data solutions being developed by MD2K is to reliably quantify physical, biological, behavioral, social and environmental factors that contribute to health and disease risk.

Such comprehensive measurements (when combined with other data sources, such as genomics and electronic health records) can herald a new future of medicine — known as precision medicine — where treatments and drugs can be tailored to each person to have maximum efficacy with minimum side effects. The Precision Medicine Initiative that was announced by President Obama in January is targeted toward realizing this vision of improved precision medicine. More than a million participants are being recruited from across the country to collect and contribute comprehensive data about themselves.

(In February, Dr. Kumar and fellow MD2K team member Dr. Kevin Patrick from the University of California, San Diego, were a part of a small group of scientists invited to Washington, D.C., to participate in an NIH-sponsored workshop to present their recommendations on incorporating mobile technologies in the Precision Medicine Initiative.)

New hires:

Since the launch of the MD2K Center last October, we have recruited five key new members: Dr. Vivek Shetty, a professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at UCLA, joined MD2K as the lead of its training activities; and four leaders from academia and industry joined MD2K as members of its Executive Advisory Board: Dr. Steven M. Dubinett, director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at UCLA; Dr. Eric Fain, Group President of St. Jude Medical Group; Dr. Harry Shum, Executive Vice President for Technology and Research, Microsoft; and Dr. Victor Strecher, Director for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan.

Upcoming software releases, events

By the end of this summer, the MD2K Center plans to release the first version of its mobile phone software for collecting mobile sensor data from wireless wearable sensors. At the same time, it is scheduled to release data analytics software (free, open source) for processing mobile sensor data and converting it into information, knowledge and, ultimately, action. In August, MD2K will organize a weeklong training institute to prepare young scientists for trans-disciplinary collaborations in mobile health. MD2K also will launch a comprehensive web-based resource library called mHealthHUB, which will be an online community where mHealth researchers can share the latest research, new products, datasets, software, news, meeting and job opportunities — as well as a place to exchange ideas.

Visit the MD2K webpage (https://md2k.org) for the latest updates and more information on MD2K. A video summarizing MD2K is available at: http://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?live=15728&bhcp=1.

(Barbara Burch Kuhn, MD2K director of communications and media, contributed to this story.)

David Rudd | President

Andrew Meyers | Interim Vice President for Research