Cambridge, Mass – November 13, 2012 – Prize4Life, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate the discovery of treatments and a cure for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), announced today three winners of its $50,000 DREAM-Phil Bowen ALS Prediction Prize4Life Challenge (or ALS Prediction Prize), which was run in collaboration with InnoCentive, Inc., the global leader in open innovation, crowdsourcing and prize competitions, and IBM’s DREAM Project.
ALS, a fatal disease, is difficult to predict. Although the average life expectancy of an ALS patient is about three years, some people live for decades, while others succumb within months. This lack of predictability makes the design of clinical trials to discover new treatments a long, costly and complex process. The ALS Prediction Prize provided competing teams with access to anonymous ALS patient data collected in previous clinical trials. With more than 1,000 participants in the Challenge, crowdsourcing via InnoCentive’s global network approach resulted in 37 potential solutions from teams and individuals around the globe.
Two teams have secured first place in the ALS Prediction Prize: a duo from Stanford University, postdoctoral candidate in mathematics and statistics Lester Mackey, PhD and recent JD and Master’s Degree recipient Lilly Fang; and the team of Liuxia Wang, PhD Principal Scientist, and her colleague Guang Li, Quantitative Modeler at Washington, DC-based Scientific Marketing Company, Sentrana. Each team will receive $20,000 for generating the top-performing solutions to predict disease progression in ALS patients.
In addition, Torsten Hothorn, PhD, a distinguished statistics professor from Germany, was awarded a second-place prize of $10,000 for his unique solution, which included an alternative approach to assessing disease progression to that specified in the Challenge criteria. The Prize4Life judging panel found Hothorn’s contribution to be highly valuable so they honored him with second place and a $10,000 prize.
“At the outset of the Challenge, we hoped to receive just one viable solution that would help improve the prediction of disease progression in ALS patients,” said Prize4Life CEO Avi Kremer. “Not only have we seen multiple great results, but the winners come from around the world. We couldn’t have been more thrilled with the results generated by all of our winning teams, which gives greater hope to those of us coping with ALS.
The ALS Prediction Prize Challenge initially sought one winner and originally allocated an award amount of $25,000, but the solutions submitted by the Stanford University team and the Sentrana team performed equally well in their predictive capabilities, leading the Prize4Life judging panel to conclude that the prize purse should be expanded.
“These winning solutions to the ALS Prediction Prize Challenge will give us important new insights into disease progression in ALS patients. Currently, ALS clinical trials must include large numbers of patients to account for the enormous variance in the course of the disease progression, which makes these trials expensive, and more difficult to interpret,” said Prize4Life Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Melanie Leitner. “The solutions to the ALS Prediction Prize will have two important and immediate benefits: they will increase the likelihood of ALS clinical trial success, and our experts estimate that these algorithms can reduce the number of patients required for a clinical trial by 23 percent.”
Prize winner Lester Mackey notes, “Lilly and I were eager to be part of the ongoing effort to make ALS disease prognosis more accurate and useful and we are thrilled that our solution was chosen as one of the best to contribute to the cause of defeating ALS.”
The ALS Prediction Prize Challenge was based on the PRO-ACT database, which was developed in collaboration with the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS) and the Neurological Clinical Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, and with funding from the ALS Therapy Alliance. A subset of the PRO-ACT database was made available to participants via the InnoCentive platform and the full PRO-ACT dataset will be made available to the global scientific community for research on December 5, 2012. PRO-ACT will contain clinical data from over 8,500 ALS patients from completed clinical trials, ten times more than had been available previously.
The ALS Prediction Prize is the second Challenge in which Prize4Life partnered with InnoCentive. The first was the $1 million ALS Biomarker Prize awarded in early 2011 to Dr. Seward Rutkove of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston for his development of a technology that accurately measures the progression of ALS in patients, thereby enabling better assessment of therapeutic effect during clinical trials.
Prize4Life is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate the discovery of treatments and a cure for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) by using powerful incentives to attract new people and drive innovation. Prize4Life believes that solutions to some of the biggest challenges in ALS research will require out-of-the-box thinking, and that some of the most critical discoveries may come from unlikely places. Founded in 2006 by Avi Kremer, who was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 29, Prize4Life encourages and rewards creative approaches that will yield real results for ALS patients. For more information, visit www.prize4life.org.
InnoCentive is the global leader in crowdsourcing innovation problems to the world’s smartest people who compete to provide ideas and solutions to important business, social, policy, scientific, and technical challenges. For more than a decade, leading commercial, government, and nonprofit organizations have partnered with InnoCentive to rapidly generate innovative new ideas and solve pressing problems. For more information, visit www.innocentive.com.
Version 2.0 Communications for Prize4Life
Schwartz MSL for InnoCentive