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Big Data Challenge for Alzheimer’s Disease Launches in Global Effort to Use Innovative Open Science Techniques to Improve Diagnosis and Treatment

June 2, 2014

Big Data Challenge for Alzheimer’s Disease Launches in Global Effort to Use Innovative Open Science Techniques to Improve Diagnosis and Treatment

Ranit Schmelzer. USAgainstAlzheimer’s. Tel: 202-538-1065. Email: rschmelzer@usagainstalzheimers.org
Thea Norman. Sage Bionetworks. Tel: 206-667-3192. Email: thea.norman@sagebase.org

Washington, DC – The Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease (CEOi), Sage Bionetworks and DREAM Project, today launched the Alzheimer’s Disease Big Data DREAM Challenge #1 in an effort to advance diagnostic innovation and identify new Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers through the use of open source data.

The goal of the Challenge (AD#1) is to apply an open science approach to rapidly identify accurate predictive Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers that can be used by the scientific, industry and regulatory communities to improve Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment.  AD#1 will be the first in a series of Alzheimer’s Data Challenges to leverage genetics and brain imaging in combination with cognitive assessments, biomarkers and demographic information from cohorts ranging from cognitively normal to mild cognitively impaired to individuals with Alzheimer’s.

“Alzheimer’s is more costly to society than cancer, yet there is currently no cure, treatment, or means of prevention” said George Vradenburg, Convener of CEOi and Chairman of USAgainstAlzheimer’s.  “This unprecedented and innovative challenge will showcase the use of open science using 21st century tools, leading to a potential breakthrough for the Alzheimer’s research community.”

The AD#1 Challenge is hosted on Synapse, Sage Bionetworks’ open computational platform, an integrated knowledge environment where data (e.g. human sequence and image data) and models (e.g. prediction and the underlying model source code) can be shared and worked on collaboratively by teams of teams.  The Challenge will be objectively judged against data that has been hidden from participants.  Information about the three AD#1 Challenge questions and the scientific rationale can be found here.

“This challenge will showcase the power of open science in breaking down barriers that slow innovation in the race to cure Alzheimer’s,” said Stephen Friend, President and Co-Founder of Sage Bionetworks.  “Through this series of big challenges, we hope to move closer to solving this intractable problem of Alzheimer’s.”

The open source data from Alzheimer’s patients is provided by the North American Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), Rush University Medical Center, and the United Kingdom’s AddNeuroMed Study, and will include results from imaging, clinical, whole genome sequencing, and multiple cognitive tests that were conducted on a cohort of individuals who have aged normally, suffer from mild-cognitive impairment or have Alzheimer’s disease.  More than two hundred bioinformatics experts from around the world have already signed up to participate in the Challenge.

While there has been huge growth in scientific data due to declining costs and advances in technology, there remains very little crowd sourcing of findings among researchers.  In recent years, however, pharmaceutical companies have shown an increased willingness to share pre-competitive data, as research and development has declined.  This development has occurred alongside recent efforts by regulatory agencies to encourage data standardization, disclosure, and sharing.

More than 40 million people globally suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.  Today, the global cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s is more than 1% of global economic output, or $600 billion annually.  In coming years, as more and more baby boomers reach the age of risk for the disease, those numbers are projected to skyrocket without a treatment to slow the progression of the disease.

Through its diverse partnerships, the CEOi is seeking to work closely with governments and global institutions to advance meaningful reforms to the Alzheimer’s drug marketplace.  The CEOi members include AC Immune, Bank of America, Banner Health, General Electric, Home Instead, Janssen, Lilly, Merck, Nestle Health Science, Pfizer, Sanofi, and Takeda.

Press Release