Crowdsourcing Contests Will Save Lives and Accelerate Medical Research

Posted on February 11, 2011 by

As a result of a One Million Dollar On-Line crowdsourcing contest, patients with the neuromuscular disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease are a step closer to finding a treatment. Last week, the non-profit ALS Prize4Life named neurologist Dr. Seward Rutkove of The Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, winner of their Biomarker Contest in which they crowdsourced the medical and scientific community in order to obtain help in finding a treatment. The pharma industry has not focused on this disease because it is not lucrative enough. Dr. Rutkove invented an electromagnetic device which quantifies muscular changes that show progressive deterioration. Prize4Life says this will cut the cost of clinical trials increasing the likelihood of future trials. Prize4Life is an organization founded by Avichai Kremer and classmates at Harvard Business School after Kremer was diagnosed with ALS. It seeks to accelerate research towards a cure through funding prize based competitions. Dr. Rutkove’s discovery emphasizes the valua of open innovation in developing new therapies and medicines. Open innovation is a new approach in which solutions are sought broadly rather than from a pre-specified group of scientists. Crowdsourcing contests appear to be able to influence scientific research in areas otherwise neglected.In December, a company called Life Technologies of California, a global biotechnology tools company, “dedicated to improving the human condition” announced a crowd sourcing initiative called Life Grand Challenges Contest. The Seven Million Dollar competition is comprised of seven individual challenges, each with a One Million Dollar prize. The first three challenges are focused on Ion Semiconductor sequencing. The challenges are to 1) produce twice as much sequence data; 2) do it twice as fast and 3) do it with twice the accuracy. The other challenges will be announced this year. Life Technologies had sales of $3.3 billion in 2009 and employes over 9,000 people

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