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LEO Science & Tech Hub Enters Collaboration with Dina Katabi MIT, CSAIL to Explore the Use of Radio Signals for Quantification of Itch
[April 12, 2018]

LEO Science & Tech Hub Enters Collaboration with Dina Katabi MIT, CSAIL to Explore the Use of Radio Signals for Quantification of Itch

LEO Science & Tech Hub, the Boston based R&D unit of LEO Pharma, has entered into a collaboration with Dina Katabi and MIT's (News - Alert) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Together they will explore the potential of the MIT group's Emerald system to quantify scratching behavior. The Emerald technology uses the reflection of radio signals to measure human activity such as gait, breathing and sleep quality.

"The Emerald system includes new machine learning algorithms that analyze the radio signals in the environment in order to recognize movement patterns," said Dina Katabi, PhD and Professor of Computer Science at MIT. "The more you teach it, the greater its ability to recognize different patterns. We believe it has the potential to measure the scratching habits of patients and recognize patterns that may be easily missed by other systems."

Itch is a severe co-morbidity in many dermatological diseases, especially atopic dermatitis (eczema) and often leads to a vicious cycle of scratching and further inflammation. Itching impacts quality of life and is often associated with negative effects on cognitive functioning. Atopic dermatitis affects between 9% - 18% of all children and 3% of adults.

Development of new drugs to combat itch is hampered by the lack of a quantifiable measure. Currently, itch is rated by the patient on a scale from 1-10 and is entirely subjective. If the Emerald system can quantify scratching, it could lead to the validation of a new standard of measurement for itch to be used as an end-point in clinical trials.

"After seeing Dina present data on the Emerald system, it immediately spurred the idea that this could be used to help improve clinical trial design in dermatology," said Troels Marstand, Chief Data Scientist a LEO Science and Tech Hub. "This project shows that innovation in pharma can come from unexpected places and reinforces the need to look beyond your own area of expertise for potential solutions."

The LEO Science & Tech Hub is recognized for its unique collaborative approach of seeking cutting-edge technology for dermatological applications. Within the first year of its launch, the Hub has successfully formed multiple collaborations to explore minimally invasive biomarker technologies, drug delivery technology, and advanced imaging technology with leading research institutes and biotechnology companies including The Karp Lab, Novopyxis, Elektrofi and The Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dina Katabi's research covers a broad range of topics related to wireless systems and digital health. Her work is characterized by a rare combination of building and deploying practical systems, coupled with rigorous formal analysis. Her CSAIL group is focused on developing novel sensing technologies and Internet-of-things solutions. Recent developments include the Emerald system, a modified WIFI router capable of reading the radio signals that bounce off people's bodies and using them to measure human motion and vital signs.

About LEO Science & Tech Hub
The LEO Science & Tech Hub is a R&D innovation unit of LEO Pharma dedicated to identifying, developing, and funding innovative solutions that improve the lives of people with skin diseases. It was founded in 2016 as a catalyst to transform early-stage innovations into solutions for improving the lives of people with skin diseases. We collaborate, explore cutting-edge ideas and make investments. We are an agile group of scientific experts with an entrepreneurial mindset and a vision of how to give patients control over disease by predicting, diagnosing, and monitoring conditions. The LEO Science & Tech Hub is based in Cambridge, Mass. For more information, please visit, or connect with us at or on Twitter (News - Alert) @LEOscitech.

About LEO Pharma
LEO Pharma helps people achieve healthy skin. By offering care solutions to patients in more than 100 countries globally, LEO Pharma supports people in managing their skin conditions. Founded in 1908 and owned by the LEO Foundation, the healthcare company has devoted decades of research and development to delivering products and solutions to people with skin conditions. LEO Pharma is headquartered in Denmark and employs around 5,000 people worldwide. Please visit

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