As we turn the page on 2011 and turn our eyes to 2012, I wanted to reflect on some of the remarkable things we accomplished together this past year.
In 2011, we added many thousands of people to our Global Solver Community. We distributed more than $2m in Challenge awards. And we welcomed Popular Science and EDF as strategic partners, resulting in a wealth of new Challenges for Solvers to tackle and an expanded pool of diverse minds for our Seekers to tap into. We elevated Novel Molecule Compound (NMC) Challenges, providing higher award amounts and introducing fingerprinting technology, which resulted in greater uptake in Solver engagement and renewed confidence from our Seekers, ultimately leading to a doubling of NMC Challenges posted and solved as compared to 2010.
But we did something much more important. We accomplished the goal we set for ourselves when we embarked on this journey together – and I don’t say this lightly – we changed the world. Together we brought solutions to light that would never have been uncovered any other way. Below are a few of the Challenges that were awarded in 2011 that I’m particularly proud of.
Prize4Life – this was our “walk on the moon” Challenge. The big, audacious goal that we weren’t sure was even achievable, but was so important that it carried a $1m award. First launched in 2006, the Prize4Life Challenge sought a biomarker for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – a rare disease with such a rapid rate of advancement that there was literally no way to measure its progression. In 2011, Solver Seward Rutkove was awarded the full $1m for his biomarker, which used a method called electrical impedance myography (EIM) to measure the flow of a small electrical current through muscle tissue. This biomarker has the potential to reduce the cost of Phase II clinical trials by more than 50%, and by correlating closely with disease progression, to remove one of the primary obstacles to industry investment in potential ALS therapies.
EDF Nitrate Capture System – PhD candidate Patrick Fuller submitted an innovative solution for the capture of toxic nitrates – and won the award on his first Challenge. This solution could mitigate the 50-80% of fertilizer applied to commercial crops in the U.S. that is not absorbed by plants and is instead lost to water and air, causing dangerous environmental and health impacts in a growing number of watersheds around the country.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Games for Health – anyone who has cared for a chronically sick child knows the challenges that adolescence brings. The increasing need for independence and social interaction makes following a prescribed health regimen difficult. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital came up with a unique approach to inspire teenagers and pre-teens to take care of themselves – a video game. The solution to this Challenge has the potential to dramatically improve health care outcomes for sick kids. We’ll have more news on this solution in the coming weeks.
Humanitarian Air Drop – The Challenges posted by the Air Force Research Labs have truly captured the attention of our Solvers and of the media. Of the seven posted so far, the humanitarian air drop Challenge hits closest to home for me. The notion that distribution of aid to the most vulnerable communities, often in the middle of a war zone, could actually cause harm to people needing that aid, is difficult to accept. Two Solvers, one from Indonesia and one from Peru, solved the Challenge, one of them referencing a well-known mechanism for moving coal from a mine shaft. This is a perfect example of diversity and the uniquely prepared mind at work, as my colleague and InnoCentive Co-Founder Alph Bingham might say.
These Challenges represent just a few of the highlights of 2011. The year 2012 is positioned to be even more impactful – we’ll be awarding new delivery options for the polio vaccine, better sanitation for billions of people in developing countries, and viable disposal options for environmentally toxic electronics. Over the coming weeks and months we’ll be posting new Challenges that promise to be just as interesting, fulfilling, and earth shattering as those we saw in 2011.
Thank you for your continued participation in the InnoCentive Solver Community.