The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Parkinsons Disease Technology



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Parkinsons-Disease     
        Parkinson’s disease is a chronic illness that affects seven to ten million people across the world.  Almost one million people in the U.S. alone live with this disease. The cause of the disease is unknown and currently there is no cure. The unknown cause of the disease makes it difficult for researchers to develop medicine for people who have the disease.

        Researchers have found that the disease attacks nerve cells in the brain, which affects a person’s movement and coordination. A person’s motor skills are affected due to the decrease in dopamine being produced. If an individual has symptoms of rigidity, slow movement, impaired balance, slurred speech as well as tremors of his or her hands, arms legs, jaw and face then he or she may likely have Parkinson’s disease.  


 The R&D Tax Credit

        Enacted in 1981, the Federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:

  • New or improved products, processes, or software
  • Technological in nature
  • Elimination of uncertainty
  • Process of experimentation

        Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015 President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent.  Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against payroll taxes.


Treatments

        Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are certain medications available to treat symptoms associated with the disease. As of now, levodopa is the most effective medicine to treat Parkinson’s symptoms due to its function of restoring dopamine. The drug is combined with carbidopa to prevent major side effects, such as nausea. Catechol-O-Methyl Transferase (COMT) inhibitors are taken for the purpose of extending the effect of levodopa.  Another treatment for individuals is to take dopamine agonists, which stimulate certain areas of the brain that are affected by dopamine chemicals. MAO-B inhibitors are used to prevent the breakdown of levodopa and instead strengthen the effects of levodopa or dopamine agonists. Lastly, an intake of anticholinergics can be taken by patients to regulate the movement and memory of an individual.
 

Parkinson’s Voice Initiative

        Parkinson’s Voice Initiative is a project which focuses on collecting 10,000 voice recordings and uses modern technology to detect from the recording if a person has Parkinson’s disease. Over six months, the study obtains phonation information from people with Parkinson’s. Data is collected consisting of recordings of a patient at home along with lab recordings from healthy subjects and individuals with Parkinson’s. Certain factors are measured including breathiness and noise, vocal tract resonance fluctuations, and vocal fold oscillation irregularity. Certain algorithms are used to further analyze the sounds, such as Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO), Minimum Redundancy Maximum Relevance (mRMR), RELIEF and Local Learning-Based Feature Selection (LLBFS).


Smart Devices

        Researchers have discovered that using smart devices are beneficial for analyzing the symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s. Equipment, such as the Apple iPhone, Google Glass, and Medtronic’s brain pacemakers can help track and maintain the progress of an individual’s symptoms associated with the disease.

Apple
        The Apple iPhone has many advantages due to its camera, motion sensors, and wireless connections. It also contains software and hardware components that are similar through other devices, which makes it an easier platform to use for application development. UCLA researchers have experimented using an iPhone to track the tremors that occur in a person’s hand.  An application would collect the tremor data from the iPhone attached to a glove the subject wore on his or her hand. The information is then sent to a doctor in order to analyze the data further.  Other Parkinson’s disease applications  have been developed to use with iPhones to assist Parkinson’s patients with their symptoms.

Google
        Google Glass is a smart device created to be hands-free and provide assistance to individuals. A study was conducted by researchers in the UK on participants who ranged from 46 to 70 years old.  Google Glass offered advice and guidance to subjects, such as talking louder, when to take medications and letting individuals know when to swallow. A large advantage of Google Glass for people with Parkinson’s is that it has motion sensors to guide people when they are having trouble moving. The device is targeted to help people with their weakened motor activities.

Medtronics
        Medtronics invented brain  pacemakers called Activa and its newer version, Activa PC+S.  The device is surgically transplanted into a patient. Once implanted, deep brain stimulation occurs, which sends electrical pulses to certain areas of the brain. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Therapy gives researchers a new way to gather information about the brain and assists in relieving symptoms associated with Parkinson’s.  The Activa PC+S is a powerful tool that manages to record brain activity, while at the same time provide deep brain stimulation to assist patients with their movement.

Lift Labs
        Lift Labs has developed a smart device, Liftware, to assist with tremors from Parkinson’s disease. A segment of the company, Lynx Design, has created a few applications such as measuring and tracking tremors. The Liftware technology consists of a hand-held device with sensors, a microcontroller, and tiny motors. All of these components combined assist with calming horizontal and vertical tremors. The microcontroller receives data gathered from the sensors and is able to direct motors to shift in a direction opposite to the occurring tremor. This motion helps stabilize the tremors that are created. The device has been shown to produce a 70% reduction in tremors that occur.  With additional time and experimentation spent on this technology, in the near future it can be utilized to completely reduce the occurrence of tremors.

Intel
        Intel in Israel has created a wearable  form of technology, which is able to analyze mobility patterns for people with Parkinson’s disease. Information is collected from the device which is then sent to a cloud  where researchers can access the data to analyze it. The wearable equipment has already been tested on several participants to determine its usability and accuracy. Together data science and wearable technology have the ability to further advance how information is collected. These factors allow for an increased amount of data to be retained as well as the growth of global communication among researchers. This technology can collect approximately 300 observations per second from every subject.  A great aspect of this wearable device is that existing smart devices, such as smart watches can be used with this new technology. The availability of increased data will assist scientists to discover and analyze information about the disease. Scientists are still experimenting with this technology to ensure the product is reliable before it is released.

Michael J. Fox Foundation
        Michael J. Fox is a well-known celebrity who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He has become a huge advocate and even created The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF).  Since being established, the foundation has raised over $450 million to assist in finding a cure for the disease. MJFF and Intel have partnered together in the attempt of creating a method of assisting people who are diagnosed with the disease. Their main focus relies on a data analytics platform, which will be used to identify and analyze certain patterns obtained from patients who utilize wearable technology.  Once information is gathered, it is open to researchers for further examination. Scientists can utilize the collected data to study repeating symptoms and the continual progression of the disease. Both parties believe that that the combination of data science tools and new technology will have a significant effect on the process of developing a cure in the future.

        The Michael J. Fox Foundation has been involved with numerous studies dedicated to experimentation with mouse models. Recently the foundation has joined together with Charles River Laboratories to conduct a research study to learn more about the LRRK2 gene, which has been known to have an effect on Parkinson’s disease.  Mouse models  will be utilized to further understand how the gene functions and how it triggers the disease. If scientists are able to find out how the LRRK2 gene works, then there is the possibility of developing a method to alter the disease.  

SpeechVive Inc.
        SpeechVive Inc. from Lafayette, Indiana offers a product called SpeechVive, to assist people with Parkinson’s with communicating better and speaking more clearly. SpeechVive has been recognized by R&D magazine and received a 2015 R&D 100 Award.  SpeechVive is essentially an earpiece that a person would wear in one of their ears. The device contains an accelerometer which senses when the user is speaking. While a person is talking, the device plays background noise of people talking into the user’s ear in order to encourage the user to speak louder. SpeechVive notices when a person isn’t speaking and turns off the background sounds, in order for the individual to accurately hear what people are saying and what is occurring in their surrounding environment. The product is licensed through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization where professor Jessica Huber worked on developing the device. Studies were conducted on the device to analyze how effective it is for patients. The data gathered showed that SpeechVive is effective for around 90% of its users.  


Conclusion

        Parkinson’s disease is a serious illness that affects many individuals around the world. A large amount of research and experimentation has been conducted to find out more about the disease. With the utilization of new technology, R&D tax credits are available for companies who are involved in research and new innovations for Parkinson’s disease.

Article Citation List

   


Authors

Charles R Goulding Attorney/CPA, is the President of R&D Tax Savers.

Lauren Chin is a Tax Analyst at R&D Tax Savers.


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