Silicon Valley entrepreneur Christine Lemke has a rare genetic disease that causes inflammation of the joints and the spine, leaving her with frequent back pain.
Her pain might be severe at times, but it hasn't stopped her from running her venture-backed start-up Evidation Health, which works with pharmaceutical giants like Sanofi and Eli Lilly to help clinical research teams figure out if their medications are working for people in real life.
Evidation's thesis is that there's a lot to learn about people's experience of disease through their digital footprint. But to do that, they need to generate evidence through clinical studies of their own.
For Lemke, Evidation's latest research project hits close to home.
The goal for the "Discover Project" study, which kicks off on Monday, is to find out whether the latest technologies can be used to better measure chronic pain, which effects an estimated 100 million Americans. Researchers have found that despite the prevalence of pain, more research is needed to guide treatment decisions.
Evidation wants to fill that gap. And Lemke will be among the first to sign up to participate.
"Sometimes we take on studies out of curiosity, especially for questions that aren't well studied or well understood," she explained.
Effectively measuring pain has been a persistent challenge for decades.
Doctors still rely on subjective measurements, like asking patients to rate the intensity of their pain on a scale of 1 to 10. That's problematic. Some people have a higher pain tolerance than others. And as studies have found, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can be a contributing factor in the experience of pain.