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McKee's Smoking Cessation Platform Earns 'Most Innovative Solution' at Yale Innovation Summit

July 16, 2019

A wearable biosensor system developed by Sherry McKee, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, and other researchers that can predict when a person will smoke based on past behavior was awarded Most Innovative Solution at the annual Yale Innovation Summit in May at Yale School of Management.

The smoking cessation system delivers a personalized motivational and skill-based text message when a person is about to experience a high-risk situation where they have smoked in the past. The intent of the communication is to stop the person from smoking just before they light up.

The Yale Innovation Summit gives researchers a forum to present their projects and findings to potential investors through “Shark Tank” style pitch and e-poster contests. Awards are presented to the researchers and entrepreneurs whose projects show the most potential to take to market.

McKee’s biosensor system continuously monitors smoking behavior using an energy-efficient and highly accurate gesture recognition algorithm which utilizes the inertial sensors in commercially available smart watches with 98 percent accuracy.

For the first two weeks the system passively captures a person’s smoking behavior and other information, including activity, social context, location, and time of day. It can then predict future smoking episodes with a 6-minute prediction window.

McKee and her research team developed an eight-week “just-in-time” intervention where the system sends a text message to the smoker when they are about to experience a high-risk situation where previously they would have smoked.

With funding from the National Cancer Institute, they tested the product on 141 smokers. Rates of quitting with McKee's system were 49.2 percent compared to 30.2 percent with a government-sponsored texting platform.

“With our wearable biosensor platform, treatment is seamlessly integrated into a client’s life and there is no need to show up for office-based appointments,” McKee said. “Our system is designed to deliver the right message at the right time to help our clients stay smoke free.”

McKee is a founder of Lumme Labs, headquartered in Amherst, Mass. At Yale she directs a translational program of research focused on treatment development for addictive disorders, with an emphasis on women and more recently criminal justice populations. Her work spans clinical trials, behavioral pharmacology, survey research, and epidemiological research to uncover mechanisms underlying poor outcomes and to translate these finding into improved interventions.

She is also researching the development of treatment platforms for alcohol and over-eating.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on July 16, 2019