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Prize4Life Launches Prize Competition to Unlock Mysteries of Disease Progression in ALS
Posted on: July 11, 2012

Prize4Life has launched a computational Challenge to predict the future progression of disease in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The DREAM-Phil Bowen ALS Prediction Prize4Life (or ALS Prediction Prize) is being run in collaboration with The DREAM Project, will be hosted on the solver platform and carries a $25,000 prize for the winning prediction.

ALS is a fatal neurological disease that leaves patients struggling with a progressive loss of motor function while generally leaving cognitive functions intact. There is no known cure for ALS and the average life span of an ALS patient is two to five years. Currently, there is almost no way to accurately predict how quickly the disease will progress - some patients, like famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, live for decades. At the same time, the development of effective treatments is dependent, in part, on accurate lifespan predictions. Therefore, a breakthrough in understanding future disease progression is critical.

The new Prize4Life Challenge is based on the PRO-ACT database, which upon completion will contain clinical data for more than 7,500 ALS patients from completed clinical trials. The entire PRO-ACT database will be available for research purposes by year's end and the ALS Prediction Prize will use a subset of this data. Ultimately, it is expected that the solution resulting from this Challenge will improve disease prediction and lead to more accurate methods of forecasting progression earlier on in the course of the disease.

We are very excited about the creation of the PRO-ACT database on which this prize competition is based, and we are thankful to everyone who helped PRO-ACT get to this point, particularly the Northeast ALS Consortium, the ALS Therapy Alliance, The DREAM Project, and, of course, the companies that were generously willing to share their ALS clinical trial data, including Sanofi and Teva Pharmaceuticals," said Dr. Melanie Leitner, Chief Scientific Officer of Prize4Life. "We hope that the breakthrough in the prediction of ALS progression resulting from this Challenge will be just the first of many future ALS clinical breakthroughs accelerated by the creation of the PRO-ACT database."

To be eligible to win, Solvers will have to perform better than an established benchmark generated using an "off-the-shelf" machine learning algorithm. Solvers will be given the opportunity to test their algorithms on a validation set, the results of which will appear on a leaderboard along with the relative ranking of participating Solvers. This submission for validation (and ranking on the leaderboard) during the competition will be completely voluntary. To participate, Solvers will need to submit their evolving code to InnoCentive to run against an interim validation set. Solvers will be able to submit their code for validation (and as a result, view their updated ranking on the leaderboard) up to 100 times during the validation phase.

On October 1, 2012, the leaderboard will be closed and the data from the validation set will be released to participating Solvers for further testing and refining of their models. By October 15, final submissions will be required in order to be eligible for the $25,000 prize. Interested Solvers can find additional information, including a data dictionary, scoring metrics, and other salient details, by logging in to view the Challenge on

We are delighted to work with Prize4Life on this important new prize initiative," said Dr. Merit Cudkowicz, Chief of Neurology Services at Mass General Hospital and co-director of the Northeast ALS Consortium. "There are huge opportunities to learn more about ALS from existing databases of clinical data. This collaborative effort will attract new investigators to the ALS field and improve understanding of ALS."

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.

We are thrilled to be working with Prize4Life again to further its efforts to discover treatments, and ultimately a cure, for ALS," said Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of InnoCentive. "We are also very thankful for the generous support of our partners Nature Publishing Group, Popular Science and The Economist to extend the reach of this important Challenge to millions of additional potential Solvers."