Monday, December 21, 2009

Boston Blazers and Prize4Life are teaming up to fight ALS!

Prize4Life is pleased to announce a new partnership—with the Boston Blazers, Boston's professional lacrosse team!

Still looking for a holiday gift for that special someone? How about taking them to see a professional lacrosse game?

The Boston Blazers will be highlighting the fight against ALS during their "Heroes Awareness Night" home game on February 6, 2010 at the legendary Boston Garden. The Blazers are partnering with P4L to bring attention to our cause and also help raise money to further our mission. They have generously agreed to donate half of the tickets purchased through this promotion to Prize4Life.

We'd love to have all of our supporters in attendance at the event. Come out and support Prize4Life, and enjoy the evening! Tickets are $30 and can be purchased directly from us, or through a special website: click here. You have to enter the code: P4L in order to be part of the group (ticket purchasers also have an opportunity to meet the team afterwords).

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to buy your tickets through us directly, just call (617) 914-4956. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

NIH Approves Additional Stem Cell Lines For Funding

On December 2, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) declared that 13 human stem cell lines met new NIH ethics criteria, reports USA Today.

This approval re-opens of a source of funding closed to researchers using human embryonic stem cells since the Bush Administration’s 2001 executive order. Since 2001, researchers otherwise supported by the NIH have had to raise private monies to derive stem cells from the fertilized embryos left over from fertility clinics, reports the New York Times. In March 2009, President Obama signed an executive order which lifted that ban.

The first thirteen lines is merely the beginning of several hundred lines to be reviewed by the NIH in the next several months. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, says that the NIH is reviewing new applications with extreme caution to ensure they meet ethics guidelines.

Eleven of the first 13 newly-approved lines were derived by Children’s Hospital Boston. They will be used to study rare congenital diseases. The other two stem cell lines were derived by Dr. Ali H. Brivanlou at Rockefeller University in New York.

This week (on Monday, December 14), the NIH approved another 27 human embryonic stem cell lines from Harvard University for federal research funding. The decision, however, limited funding to diabetes-related pancreatic cell experiments.

The second batch of cells, from Harvard University, have been used in studies of ALS, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, and spinal injury, supported by other funding sources. A report in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science last year called them the 'gold standard', says USA Today. Let us hope that these 'gold standards' lead rapidly to treatments and a cure for ALS.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Evolution of Crowdsourcing

At Prize4Life, we distribute a weekly Digest of all sorts of relevant news: ALS news, news on philanthropy, news on trends in crowdsourcing, and news on industry developments that are relevant to ALS and neurodegenerative diseases. Like many organizations, we do this to keep our staff and constituencies informed of developments that can potentially affect us; on any given week we may read about how heavy metals could present a therapy option for ALS, about crowdsourced philanthropy, or about how women receive less research funding than men (by the way, if you’d like to receive the Digest, you can request to be added to the mailing list here).

In assembling the Digest recently, I have been struck by the diversity of organizations using crowdsourcing tactics to meet their goals. Prize4Life was the first neurodegenerative disease-oriented organization to establish an incentive prize and draw on the power of crowds for solutions, but it looks like we won’t be the last!

Crowdsourcing takes projects traditionally performed by employees and outsources them to a group of people in an open call for submissions. The public may be invited to develop a new technology, create a design, or analyze data. Prizes are often awarded to compensate winners, and clearly, Web 2.0 facilitates this kind of interaction. Prize4Life's two prizes are based on this very concept—we open our competition to the creativity and expertise of researchers the world over.

And crowdsourcing has a wide reach. Companies and non-profit organizations are crowdsourcing everything from purchase of a beer company to lightbulbs to maps. Yellow Tail is crowdsourcing a name for its newest wine. The first crowdsourced car hits the production line this month. Check out the list below for some of my favorite examples of crowdsourcing:


Philanthropic communities are increasingly harnessing the power of crowdsourcing for social change. Take TUGG, for example (Technology Underwriting Greater Good), a foundation organized by New England’s venture capital and entrepreneurial communities, which helps youth in areas of entrepreneurship, education, and experiences. TUGG relies on the broader community for ideas on social innovation projects, to select fundable projects, and to raise money through micro-initiatives.


Facebook, Twitter, and IBM have all used crowdsourcing for large-scale translation projects. The IBM application, n.Fluent, translates between English and 11 other languages, and it embodies contributions from the company's 400,000 employees. Facebook and Twitter have relied on their users to translate entire areas of their respective sites.


Crowdsourcing has even crept into government agencies. The US Department of Energy launched the L Prize in 2007, to spur development of high-quality, high-efficiency LED light bulbs as replacements for the common light bulb.

NetFlix recently awarded a $1 million prize to a team of mathematicians who came up with a recommendation software that could do a better job accurately predicting the movies that customers would like.

NASA and TopCoder, Inc. are holding a competition to develop algorithms which would help NASA flight surgeons make better decisions on what to include in the medical supplies kit of future long-term human space missions.

Prize4Life is proud to be the first disease organization to use these concepts in our work (click here to read more about our model). We invite as wide a pool of participants as possible with no restrictions. We want to attract ALS researchers, clinicians, other disease researchers, emerging scientists, established scientists, domestic researchers, international researchers worldwide, and anyone in between, to participate in the pursuit of understanding of ALS better and finding treatments and a cure for this devastating disease.

--by Meghan Kallman