New in OS X: Get MacRumors Push Notifications on your Mac

Resubscribe Now Close

New Interview Offers 'Inside Look' at Potential Origin of ResearchKit

ResearchKit, Apple's new open-source medical framework, was one of the unexpected announcements during the company's Spring Forward media event. Dr. Stephen Friend, one of the key members of the ResearchKit team, talked about the potential genesis of the project in a new interview with Fusion (via iMore).

ResearchKit
In September 2013, nearly one and a half years before ResearchKit was unveiled, Friend was at Stanford's MedX conference giving a talk about the future of medical research. He explained how he envisioned an open source system where users could upload their medical data to the cloud for researchers to use in trials.

Sitting in the audience that day was Michael O'Reilly, M.D., the former Chief Medical Officer and EVP of Medical Affairs at Masimo Corporation, a pulse oximetry company. O'Reilly had just left Masimo to join Apple, and wanted to build something that could "implement Friend's vision of a patient-centered, medical research utopia and radically change the way clinical studies are done."
After Friend’s talk, O’Reilly approached the doctor, and, in typical tight-lipped Apple fashion, said: “I can’t tell you where I work, and I can’t tell you what I do, but I need to talk to you,” Friend recalls. Friend was intrigued, and agreed to meet for coffee.
Shortly after his meeting with O'Reilly, Friend started making frequent trips to Apple's HQ in Cupertino, meeting with scientists and engineers. He also organized a DARPA-funded workshop exploring how biosensors could potentially help doctors and scientists understand Parkinson's Disease.

Euan Ashley, a Stanford University investigator behind the myHeart app, told Fusion that Apple largely acted as a "facilitator", building the ResearchKit framework in the background as the researchers designed and built the first ResearchKit apps by themselves. However, Apple did go meet with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration three months before the Spring Forward event to talk about medical research and smooth over any potential regulatory concerns.

Friend noted that even though his open-source ideals didn't totally mesh with Apple's view on open source at the time, he wanted to work with them rather than competitors like Google and Microsoft because Apple is a hardware company that doesn't need to sell data, and that he believed Apple when the company said it wouldn't look at the data being used in ResearchKit.

However, both Apple and Friend decided not to make the true origin of ResearchKit clear to Fusion. It's unknown whether the idea was Friend's or if Apple was developing it before Friend joined the team.

Thus far, ResearchKit has been a success for Apple, receiving thousands of sign-ups less than 24 hours after it was unveiled. In that time frame, 11,000 people signed up for one of the ResearchKit apps, myHeart Counts.

The rest of the interview also provides a good look at ResearchKit and can be read at Fusion's website.



Top Rated Comments

(View all)

59 months ago
"I can't tell you where I work, and I can't tell you what I do, but I need to talk to you,"

Friend started making frequent trips to Apple's HQ in Cupertino, meeting with scientists and engineers.


Got a mental image of him sitting in the back of a blacked out van with a black hood over his head! :)
Rating: 8 Votes
59 months ago
in my mac notification center, this popped up as "New Interview Offers 'Inside Look' at Pot"


of course I clicked on it.
Rating: 5 Votes
59 months ago

"I can't tell you where I work, and I can't tell you what I do, but I need to talk to you,"



Got a mental image of him sitting in the back of a blacked out van with a black hood over his head! :)


When I read that line, I did it in Liam Neeson voice as Bryan Mills from Taken.

Liam: "I can't tell you where I work, and I can't tell you what I do, but I need to talk to you."

Doc: "Okaaaay. What's this about?"

Liam: "I'll contact you later,but know this, what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that..."

On topic. This can be a very good thing. Especially if it is truly open source. If it become proprietary it's still a good thing, but less so.
Rating: 5 Votes
59 months ago
This can only be a positive thing for patients worldwide.

Go Apple!
Rating: 3 Votes
59 months ago
Nothing in this article is worth the usual sarcastic and cynical treatment here. This is a good thing - open source, free (yes somewhat redudant), no data selling, and helpful to mankind.

I say YEAH!!!
Rating: 3 Votes
59 months ago
As a researcher, all I can say is that this could be huge. If apple truly opens this up, it could provide high-quality data on a massive scale and a very low cost. Well done Apple!
Rating: 2 Votes
59 months ago

ResearchKit is a good example to answer the "what does Apple do with all that cash? Why not just buy [insert company here]?"

ResearchKit doesn't need to sell data or make money but the systems that run it cost a lot of money. This is what the big boy does. Apple doesn't just buy random company just because they can. That's not smart money!

It's the reason they have a lot of money. They are smart with their spending just as they are with their products
Rating: 2 Votes
59 months ago

From what was a damn average keynote, looking back, researchkit was a positive, rhat and the MacBook . I hope apple sticks with it


This was a "wow" moment for me. I've been in research studies before, and the telemetry of the studies is horrible. It relies on people (me) remembering where they were, what they did, and what the results were when the data was taken.

This makes it far easier, because it puts the responsibility on the doctor team to think this stuff through, rather than the patient trying to figure stuff out.

Here's how it went for the study I was in:
Test blood sugar
Write it down on this piece of paper.
Write down what you ate
Write down what were doing the 3 hours before/after eating
Turn this in at the next appointment, where it's like a doctor appointment, where you wait an hour before being seen, and being told that you're not doing it right.

Here's how I envision Research Kit:
Blood tester and/or CGM is BT enabled, and communicates with app on iPhone, which feeds to Health app, which ResearchKit app can pull from
Activity is tracked (ran 4 miles is more accurately seen as "ran 6.2 mph for 40 minutes")
Eating is a problem, but give the recipients a scale that tracks what they eat (I have one of these, and it attaches to Health app)
It transmits daily to the research doctors.

I see the errors in translation and input going way down, and relevant information going way up.
Rating: 2 Votes
59 months ago
We may be witnessing the first phase of the future of healthcare. (To Be Determined)
But the real question on everyone's mind is, When will Samsung make its own version?
Rating: 1 Votes
59 months ago
The upside of ResearchKit is huge. I will be very keen to see where this goes, and what data comes out of this long term.
Rating: 1 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]