Researchers score $6M for technology that helps children with asthma


Researchers at UCLA and USC have scored a $6 million grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to develop technology to help children with asthma, HealthcareITnews is reporting. The four-year grant is part of a national $144 million initiative called Pediatric Research using Integrated Sensor Monitoring Systems or PRISMS.

The goal is to rely on big data and mobile technologies to develop tools that shed light on the environment’s role in children’s health. The UCLA-USC award was the largest of the nine projects funded by the program.

“Asthma is the most common chronic condition in children, and it weighs heavily on the nation in terms of public health, medical costs and quality of life,” said Alex Bui, a professor of radiological sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, who is also the study’s principal investigator. “Our goal is to predict where and when a child is at risk for an asthma attack so we can prevent one from happening.”

UCLA will create a platform that funnels data to the user’s smartphone from sensors children will wear; the sensors will also be placed in various locations at their homes and schools. The information collected will be transferred to a cloud-based system where it will be integrated with each individual patient’s electronic health record and real-time reports on weather conditions, air quality, pollen count and other factors that could trigger asthma attacks.

The goal is to rely on big data and mobile technologies to develop tools that shed light on the environment’s role in children’s health.The platform will also incorporate a calendar that tracks asthma attacks, with the ability to alert users when conditions might be right for another attack.

New apps, which will be created by other research teams funded by the PRISMS initiative, will enable doctors and researchers to download and compare patients’ data, and the technology will incorporate security measures to protect patients’ confidential information. USC researchers will field-test the sensors and systems and will provide guidance on the system’s design. They also will contribute expertise on environmental factors and pediatric health.

The project is slated for beta-test during 2016, and then a year later – Bui’s team will trial the technology with children being treated at UCLA for asthma. Researchers will evaluate how the sensors work as the children go about their daily routines at home, in school and at play.