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Simpler Internal Organ, Duct Imaging Sought in Challenge

ERCP image

ERCP image showing the biliary tree and the main pancreatic duct (Wikipedia)

A new challenge on InnoCentive is looking for simpler tools or methods for imaging or conducting treatments in small ducts connected to the liver, gall bladder, or pancreas. The competition has a a prize purse of $25,000 and a deadline of 13 October 2013 for submissions (free registration required).

InnoCentive in Waltham, Massachusetts conducts open-innovation, crowd-sourcing competitions for corporate and organization sponsors. InnoCentive calls this kind of competition a theoretical challenge that requires a written proposal. The sponsor of this competition, however, is not disclosed.

Diagnosing conditions of the liver, gall bladder, or pancreas today involves a form of endoscopy, where small cameras are attached to tubes inserted through a passage into the body and to observe ducts and organs, and sometimes to perform procedures to treat a condition. The current methods endoscopy of liver, gall bladder, or pancreatic ducts is known as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography or ERCP, a specialized process conducted while the patient is sedated.

In ERCP, the endoscope is inserted in the patient’s mouth, through the stomach, and into the small intestine that connects to ducts from the liver and pancreas through a small opening called the papilla. A catheter is inserted through the endoscope into the papilla, to access the biliary (liver and gall bladder)  and pancreatic ducts. The physician injects a contrast material, such as a dye, through catheter into the liver and pancreas to better outline the ducts when X-rays are taken. Biopsies, to get small tissue samples for lab testing, or treatments to enlarge narrowed areas or remove blockages can also be performed with ERCP.

While an ERCP requires a specialized physician, the success of the procedure is not guaranteed. According to the sponsor of the challenge, failure rates can be as high as 25 percent. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of National Institutes of Health, says complications from ERCP, such as pancreatitis and infections, occur in 6 to 10 percent of cases.

The competition’s sponsor is seeking a simpler process of endoscopy to access and image these internal organs. If multiple proposals meeting these criteria are submitted, the sponsor will give preference to ideas with the greatest likelihood of success and that can be most cost-effectively implemented.

To receive the prize, the winning participant will be required to transfer exclusively to the sponsor all intellectual property rights to the ideas proposed.

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