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MC10 Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Ryan McGinnis – University of Vermont

Thursday, December 19, 2019   • Posted by Katie Nolan

Academic researchers are some of the most critical customers and collaborators for MC10. They provide us with a better understanding of the many ways our devices can be used, give us feedback on where the device can improve, and even help us develop algorithms to optimize the use of our analytics platform. Because of this, we have decided to create a new researcher spotlight feature on our blog, the MC10 Pulse. This feature will showcase the researchers, the impressive work their labs are doing, and how they are using the BioStamp system.

Our first researcher spotlight is a feature on Dr. Ryan McGinnis, Ph.D., a former MC10 employee who is now an Assistant Professor in Electrical and Biomedical Engineering, Assistant Director of the Biomedical Engineering Program, and Director of the M-Sense Research Group at the University of Vermont. Dr. McGinnis has led cross-disciplinary research teams at health technology startups and in academia pairing innovations in wearable and mobile technologies with his expertise in biomedical signal processing, machine learning, and computational dynamics for the development and validation of novel digital biomarkers and therapeutics. His work has been commercialized to form the heart of product offerings from 8 companies and he currently serves as a scientific advisor for many more in the health technology space. He is also a co-founder of Allostatech, a Vermont-based start-up focused on developing digital health solutions for improving mental health.

Q: What is the main focus of your lab – the M-Sense group?

The mission of my group is “empowering patients with digital health technologies.” In support of this mission, our current research efforts are focused on developing new digital biomarkers and therapeutics for improving the mobility and functional independence of individuals living with multiple sclerosis, optimizing orthopedic rehabilitation outcomes, and addressing mental health problems in children and young adults. These projects leverage cutting edge wearable sensors, like the BioStamp nPoint system, and mobile phones to develop technologies that can make a real difference in the long-term health of patients across a variety of clinical populations. In approaching these projects, we often structure our development efforts so that we can simultaneously create open-source tools (for example) that can be used by the research community to speed scientific advances in these areas. By reducing barriers to research on digital biomarkers and therapeutics, we hope to make the vision of digital medicine a reality more quickly.

Q: What spurred your decision to dedicate your research to this area?

I like the idea that we can develop technologies that make healthcare better and more accessible. As you know, digital medicine is poised to revolutionize the delivery and quality of healthcare. The majority of a patient’s life is experienced outside of the doctor’s office. A digital medicine approach allows doctors to interact with their patients where they experience their symptoms and make treatment decisions based on advanced analysis of massive amounts of health data collected throughout a patient’s daily life. I believe that the work that we do in my group is well-positioned to contribute directly to this revolution through our development of novel digital biomarkers and therapeutics for a variety of clinical populations as well as the development of open-source tools that make it easier for others to contribute to advancing the future of medicine.

Q: How does your lab utilize BioStamp nPoint?

We use the BioStamp nPoint system for nearly all of our data collection efforts. These include both controlled in-lab testing as well as remote monitoring of patient behavior and biomechanics during daily life. During our in-lab studies, you will often find participants completely covered with BioStamp sensors (our current record is 21 sensors at once!) to capture the most complete picture possible of human biomechanics with these novel wearable sensors. These studies are often focused on algorithm validation. They include simultaneous data collection from gold-standard, laboratory-based systems for quantifying human biomechanics like optical motion capture, force platforms, and an instrumented treadmill. Our observational studies of patients in their natural settings range from single day observations to remote patient monitoring across weeks and months. These studies often employ three BioStamp sensors secured to the chest and lower limbs. For example, in a current NIH-funded study, we aim to use data from the BioStamp nPoint system to develop a digital biomarker for predicting fall risk in persons with multiple sclerosis. Data to inform this biomarker will come from 3 months of patient monitoring outside of the laboratory.

Q: In your opinion, what benefit does BioStamp nPoint provide to researchers?

I think that there are several key benefits that the BioStamp nPoint system offers for researchers. First, it allows the collection of wearable sensor data at the locations most salient for your project, enabling researchers to move beyond measures of health that can be extracted from sensors constrained to locations convenient for straps, like the wrist. Next, it offers multimodal data (i.e., sensing of both movement and surface biopotentials) collection from these locations in a form factor that is unobtrusive and comfortable to wear, allowing remote and passive monitoring of these quantities. Finally, these benefits are all realized within a system (including a mobile application, charging/syncing dock, web dashboard, etc.) designed for remote patient monitoring. Remote monitoring allows the collection of additional contextual data critical for the development of digital biomarkers and therapeutics and a level of study oversight never before possible with existing research technology. Taken together, the BioStamp nPoint system provides access to unique data and at an unprecedented scale.

 

Thank you to Dr. McGinnis for all of his work surrounding in the wearable technology and digital health space. We at MC10 have benefitted greatly from his work both internally and at UVM. We look forward to seeing the work that comes out of his lab in the future!