TOKYO -- General Electric will launch a study in Japan to identify precursors to Alzheimer's disease, in collaboration with Hirosaki University in Aomori Prefecture.
The U.S. company will make use of data from the university, which has carried out a survey of 9,000 of the prefecture's residents and will collect genetic information and other new data. Aomori Prefecture has one of the most rapidly aging populations in Japan.
Upon obtaining consent from data providers, the partners will conduct a big-data analysis to map out trends and changes to pin down signs of the disease before onset.
The health data gathered by the university includes such details as blood pressure, pulse, bacteria in the bowels, lifestyle and medical history of family members, adding up to more than 300 items.
By combining this with newly obtained genetic and other information, the partners will work to establish a basic analysis method by the end of fiscal 2015 to identify factors that can lead to dementia. Then, they will verify its validity by applying it to a pool of over 10,000 people in Aomori Prefecture.
GE views Japan as a unique opportunity for dealing with such issues as aging populations, and thus bases its research and development operations focused on cutting-edge medical treatment systems here. The company decided that studying dementia in Japan will help create a business from the results quickly.
Health products company Sunstar will take part in the development of supplements aimed at preventing dementia. And the Japanese government will provide up to 1 billion yen ($9.66 million) to assist with R&D.
Globally, patients with Alzheimer's disease are estimated to total 36 million, and associated economic losses are estimated at 90 trillion yen.
Around fiscal 2021, GE plans to launch a business analyzing individuals' health data and selling it to municipalities and corporations, and is considering taking it abroad as well.