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Using smart watches to boost Precision Medicine

With support from the NUCATS Institute and CTSA Trial Innovation Network, Rod Passman, MD, the Jules J. Reingold Professor of Electrophysiology, was awarded a $37 million grant to study wearables and stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation.

“NUCATS was instrumental in helping with the design of the study and attending to the myriad of details needed for the grant submission,” says Passman. “The organizational expertise and oversight provided by several of the stellar staff at NUCATS was invaluable.” 

Passman first approached the Institute in 2017 wanting to build on an already piloted strategy. The timing coincided with the newly launched Trial Innovation Network, a now well-established initiative designed to leverage the CTSA consortium for multi-site studies ( Using TIN liaisons at NUCATS, Passman engaged in an initial year-long TIN consultation, which was followed by support from the Trial Innovation Center at Johns Hopkins and Tufts, as well as the Recruitment Innovation Center at Vanderbilt.

The seven-year study, called the Rhythm Evaluation for AntiCoagulaTion (REACT-AF) trial, relies on Apple Watches and an accompanying iPhone app to target blood-thinning medication use for a limited period of time and only in response to a prolonged episode of atrial fibrillation (AFib). The study will enroll its first of 5,400 patients before July 2023.

As primary project manager ahead of grant submission, NUCATS brought together local experts from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, Office for Sponsored Research, and CTSA consortium partners.

“The idea of REACT-AF persisted because of Dr. Passman’s belief that temporal precision medicine holds the potential to be paradigm shifting,” says NUCATS Director Richard D’Aquila. “This large, multi-site project also relied on the collaborative nature of groups like the Bluhm Clinical Trials Unit, TIN, and NUCATS Institute."

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