Apple has announced that their medical research platform, ResearchKit, will be used by researchers from Duke University, Johns Hopkins and Oregon Health & Science University to carry out new research studies on autism, epilepsy and melanoma.

“We’re honoured to work with world-class medical institutions and provide them with tools to better understand diseases and ultimately help people lead healthier lives,” said Apple’s Senior Vice President of Operations, Jeff Williams.

“In just six months, ResearchKit apps studying everything from asthma and diabetes to Parkinson’s disease, are already providing insights to scientists around the world and more than 100,000 participants are choosing to contribute their data to advance science and medical research,” continued Williams.

Autism & Beyond

Duke University and Duke Medicine are launching Autism & Beyond for parents with concerns about autism and other developmental issues.

The Duke research team is looking at whether the front-facing camera on an iPhone can be used to detect signs of developmental issues at a much younger age. The app uses emotion detection algorithms to measure a child’s reaction to videos shown on iPhone. Duke is partnering with Peking University in China and other international partners to conduct the study.

“Autism & Beyond combines well-established screening questionnaires with a new video technology that makes it possible to analyse the emotions of children so that we may one day be able to automate the screening for conditions such as autism and anxiety,” said Director of Mobile Technology Strategy and Assistant Professor in Internal Medicine & Paediatrics at Duke University, Ricky Bloomfield.

“ResearchKit enables us to put an entire medical study in a single app, reaching so many more people than we ever could before,” continued Bloomfield.


The Johns Hopkins developed EpiWatch app will be the first study of its kind to be conducted with Apple Watch using ResearchKit. The study will test whether the wearable sensors included in Apple Watch can be used to detect the onset and duration of seizures.

During the first phase of this study, researchers will use a custom complication on the Apple Watch to provide patients with one-touch access to trigger the app to capture accelerometer and heart rate sensor data to capture the digital signature of their seizure and send an alert to a loved one. The app will keep a log of all seizures and the participant’s responsiveness during the event. The app also helps participants manage their disorder by tracking their medication adherence and by screening for side effects, while allowing participants to compare their condition with others in the research study.

“Epilepsy impacts over 2 million people in the United States. This new app, designed using ResearchKit, provides patients with interactive activities that help them manage their condition now, and opens the door to developing an app that can detect various seizure types and alert family and caregivers,” said Professor of Neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Gregory Krauss, M.D.

“Now we have the opportunity to use technology to monitor seizures across the country and collect data in a totally new way,” continued Krauss.


Oregon Health & Science University is studying whether digital images taken on an iPhone can be used to learn about mole growth and melanoma risks, and to help people better manage skin health by photographing and measuring mole size over time.

Research participants will be able to document mole changes and share them directly with health professionals, and researchers will be able to capture images from iPhone users around the globe to help create detection algorithms which can be used in future studies to potentially screen for melanoma.

“Melanoma is the poster child for early detection. If we can identify melanomas earlier by creating a simple way for patients to share images of their moles we can learn more about the progression of the disease,” said Chair of Dermatology and Director, Melanoma Research Program at the Knight Cancer Institute, Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D.

“Expanding our pool of research participants is a critical step in gaining the information we need. ResearchKit makes this easier than ever with the development of a simple iPhone app.”

ResearchKit studies are currently available in Austria, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

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