Press Releases

November 01, 2021

UMass Amherst, Brigham and Women's Hospital to Lead New Center on Artificial Intelligence, Aging And Alzheimer's Funded by $20 Million NIA Grant

Federal award marks inauguration of Massachusetts AI and Technology Center for Connected Care in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease

The University of Massachusetts Amherst and Brigham and Women’s Hospital announced today the launch of the new Massachusetts AI and Technology Center for Connected Care in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease (MassAITC), which seeks to improve in-home care for older adults and individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, thanks to a grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The award is expected to total approximately $20 million over five years.

MassAITC is a collaboration between the Commonwealth’s premier institutions of education and health—including UMass Amherst, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brandeis University and Northeastern University. The center will be housed at UMass Amherst and will leverage extensive expertise, access to patient cohorts and resources of the other partner institutions from around Massachusetts. It is co-led by Deepak Ganesan, professor in UMass Amherst’s Robert and Donna Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS), and Niteesh Choudhry, director of the center for Healthcare Delivery Sciences in the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

“We are pleased that UMass Amherst will house this new center, which brings together such distinguished institutions from across the Commonwealth,” says UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy. “The center will leverage the campus’s considerable expertise in AI and life sciences to develop advanced care for Alzheimer’s patients and address healthcare disparities associated with the disease. Applying groundbreaking research and innovation to real-world problems is central to the mission of the flagship campus.”

“Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform important areas of science and medicine, but there is a critical need to bring the power of AI to the patients, caregivers and clinicians who need it most,” says Paul Anderson, senior vice president of research and education at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “This grant will allow experts from across our state to come together to help address this key gap.”

More than 90% of older Americans would prefer to stay in their homes as they age. However, the prevalence of chronic illness, including Alzheimer's disease, can make the goal of successful aging at home out of reach without substantial support. While at-home health care technologies hold significant promise, they have not been specifically developed for older adults or Alzheimer’s patients, caregivers and their clinicians. Further, many current treatment and intervention regimes are limited in terms of their ability to be remotely delivered, managed and adapted to patient needs and caregiver abilities.

MassAITC seeks to address this major healthcare disparity, in part, with advanced AI research and development. “It’s a difficult problem to develop AI-enhanced sensing technologies that work for people where they are,” says Ganesan. “How do you get good, useful data? How do you analyze this data and present it to the patient, caregiver and clinician? And then how can you intervene in a timely manner when a problem develops?”

The center will bridge these gaps with interdisciplinary research that draws on the perspectives of patients, caregivers, clinicians, behavioral scientists and other stakeholders. These perspectives will then inform the work of teams whose expertise lies in wearable and contactless sensing, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“MassAITC also brings together outstanding capabilities from across the Commonwealth, including state-of-the-art facilities for rapid AI-enhanced technology development and patient cohorts to facilitate validation of these technologies in real-world, at-home settings,” says Choudhry.

“MassAITC is designed to be a research accelerator,” says Benjamin Marlin, MassAITC’s associate director and professor in CICS. “One of the center’s goals is to take work that is still in the lab and transition it toward the field so that it can actually support care and make a measurable change in people’s lives.”

“Deepak and Ben bring a tremendous amount of expertise and leadership to this new center, and we are immensely proud of the work they are doing to improve patient care and quality of life,” says Laura Haas, dean of CICS. “MassAITC is a shining example of our college’s numerous activities at the intersection of applied computing and health.”

“We’re working with some of the best health researchers in the world and an exceptional group of advisors,” says Ganesan. “Not only are we adding UMass Amherst’s expertise in AI and wearable devices, but also, thanks to UMass Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), we have fantastic core facilities to perform cutting-edge research at the intersection of technology and healthcare.”

The MassAITC is funded by NIH grant P30AG073107.