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Challenge Seeks Preclinical Models for Macular Degeneration

Human eye

(KyleMay/Flickr)

7 November 2014. A new challenge on InnoCentive asks for novel methods to test therapies for age-related macular degeneration in the lab, before being tested on humans. The competition has a total purse of $50,000 and deadline of 12 January 2015, where winners can also compete in a subsequent design challenge with a prize pool of $150,000.

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

Age-related macular degeneration is a common eye disorder, where damage to the macula, a small spot in the center of the retina, becomes damaged, resulting in progressive loss of vision. Over time, central vision becomes blurred and grows, disrupting the ability to read, drive, work, or recognize faces. The disorder is most common in older individuals, and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older.

Progression of age-related macular degeneration can lead to increasing weakness in retinal pigment epithelium and photoreceptor layers in the retina that detect light and transfer visual signals to the optic nerve and brain. As the disease progresses, the weakness in the eye can also lead to leakiness in blood vessels in the eye, as well has hemorrhaging and scarring.

The challenge ‘s sponsor is seeking new ways of testing therapies for age-related macular degeneration in the lab that, in particular, provide better models of the key retinal pigment epithelium and photoreceptor layers in the retina. The sponsor says current preclinical testing methods do not fully represent the pathology of the disorder, nor are they suited for modern drug discovery tools like high-throughput screening.

The sponsor expects to make up to 5 awards totaling $50,000. In addition, award recipients may be asked to submit proof-of-concept designs and data in a subsequent competition with a total prize pool of $150,000. Award winners in the first round will be asked to to grant to the sponsor a non-exclusive license to adopt the proposed technology.

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