We recently completed an Ideation Challenge for the Sandler-Kenner Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer which looked for new tools and approaches for earlier diagnosis of this deadly disease. We spoke with Dr. Gregory Echt, Chairman of the Foundation, about his experience with the Challenge process and the results.
Hello Dr. Echt. As we understand it, this was your first experience with Challenge Driven Innovation. How did it go?
We felt the InnoCentive Challenge went very smoothly. We appreciated the help and support of your staff in guiding us through the process, as well as helping us to understand how to most effectively formulate our Challenge and to review submissions.
Was there anything that particularly surprised you during the Challenge?
We were pleased with the number of replies and equally impressed with the overall quality of the responses. They were thoughtful and demonstrated novel and critical thinking skills, often utilizing research approaches from other areas of science. The reach of the Challenge was astounding — we had interest from over 500 Solvers in 57 countries. Over 60 submissions came from 17 countries, which confirmed to us that early detection of pancreatic cancer is a pressing worldwide problem.
You ended up making four awards totaling $12,500. Tell us about some of the solutions you received and their possible impact.
I want to reiterate that I was very pleased with the quality of all of the submissions. In general, we found the winning solutions remained focused on our goal, which is to develop highly sensitive detection tools that can be easily implemented by medical professionals and eventually cost effective enough to become part of a routine medical practice. The winning team from New Delhi applied their expertise and knowledge gained through studies on the development of a non-invasive early diagnostic method for tuberculosis. The three recognition awards had varied backgrounds. One is a senior lecturer in molecular microbiology, and another has an M.D.-Ph.D. in biophysics with an interest in the nano-technological side of bioresearch. The third recognition awardee proposed the use of a 3D non-invasive high resolution ultrasound. Interestingly enough, this awardee was motivated by a family member who had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
I believe that you have been in touch with the winning Solvers. Can you tell us more about those conversations and your plans for the winning solutions?
We have been in touch with all of the Solvers. They have all expressed their appreciation for the recognition of their work. One of the awardees indicated that his research team would use this award to fund a pilot study. We have also put the winning Solvers in touch with each other, encouraging them to learn from each other and to continue the discussion on early detection. We plan to follow these researchers in order to encourage the development of their ideas.
Our Solvers always welcome feedback. Is there any advice you would offer after reviewing so many submissions?
The addition of a brief abstract at the beginning of each submission would be helpful in providing more clarity.
When we spoke with you at the time your Challenge launched, you told us a bit about the history of the Foundation. Can you refresh our memories?
The Sandler-Kenner Foundation was formed to support research in early detection and diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Our mission is to raise awareness of adenocarcinoma and neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer. Our focus is to fund research to aid in the development of early identification tools that are highly sensitive, cost effective, and easily implemented by medical practitioners
Thanks very much Dr. Echt. Congratulations on the successful Challenge, and also on the important work performed by the Foundation.
We want to thank you again for your help in making this a reality! We are very pleased to have partnered with your program, along with your knowledgeable and attentive staff. We are overwhelmed by the number of responses and impressed by your program’s extensive reach. In addition, we deeply appreciate InnoCentive’s willingness to work with the Sandler-Kenner Foundation in order to address the formidable problems inherent in early detection of pancreatic cancer.