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Less-Invasive Skin Biopsy Sought in $30K Challenge

RNA molecule illustration

RNA molecule illustration (Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation)

13 November 2015. In a new challenge on InnoCentive, a pharmaceutical company specializing in skin disorders is seeking a new minimally-invasive procedure for skin biopsies to provide samples for RNA analysis. The competition, sponsored by Leo Pharma in Ballerup, Denmark has a purse of $30,000 and a deadline of 10 February 2016.

InnoCentive in Waltham, Massachusetts conducts open-innovation, crowdsourcing competitions for corporate and organization sponsors. Free registration is required to see details of the competition.

Leo Pharma develops medications for skin diseases including psoriasis, acne, eczema, skin infections, and non-melanoma skin cancer. The company notes that these conditions often create a good deal of physical and social discomfort for people, and its scientists in many cases consult behavioral scientists to develop medications that are easy and comfortable to administer.

Leo Pharma is seeking a new  procedure for taking skin biopsies, samples of surface skin and underlying tissue for diagnosing disorders where changes in skin condition are symptoms. Skin cancer and actinic keratosis, a precancerous condition, are examples of disorders where skin biopsies are taken. According to Mayo Clinic, there are currently three main types of skin biopsies: shave biopsy that uses a razor-like device to take a sample of surface skin, punch biopsy that takes a circular sample of surface skin and underlying tissue, and excisional biopsy that uses a scalpel to remove an area of abnormal skin including underlying fatty layers if needed.

In this challenge, Leo Pharma is requesting ideas for a skin biopsy to provide a sufficient sample to conduct an RNA profile. RNA, short for ribonucleic acid, carries instructions for cells from an individual’s DNA or genetic code, and thus can be an indicator of the state of genes producing the RNA. Taking skin samples for RNA analysis, however, is difficult because of the invasiveness of current biopsy procedures, which sharply limits their use.

Thus, the company is seeking a minimally invasive technique causing less pain and tissue damage. One immediate benefit of a new less-invasive technique would be clinical trials that could use skin biopsies for RNA analysis more frequently and get results faster.

InnoCentive calls this type of competition a reduction-to-practice challenge that requires a detailed explanation of the proposed solution and a prototype for testing. Detailed instructions for preparing documents and prototype are provided for registered participants in the competition. The sponsor will review submissions on a rolling basis, and advise competitors to ship prototypes for testing.

Leo Pharma says current products on the market will not be accepted in the challenge, but changes to existing products will be considered. The company is asking for winning competitors to grant a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions. An exclusive transfer of intellectual property rights will not be required.

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