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Challenge Seeks New Regenerative Tools with Stem Cells

Induced pluripotent stem cells

Induced pluripotent stem cells reprogrammed from human skin (California Institute for Regenerative Medicine)

29 April 2016. A challenge offered through InnoCentive is seeking new methods of harnessing adult stem cells for regenerative medicine. The competition has a total purse of $15,000 and a 24 June 2016 deadline for submissions. The sponsor of the challenge, pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, also seeks research plans related to the challenge proposals, with funding amounts negotiated separately.

The competition is conducted by InnoCentive in Waltham, Massachusetts that conducts open-innovation, crowdsourcing competitions for corporate and organization sponsors. Free registration is required to see details of the competition. In November 2015, Boehringer Ingelheim revealed that it plans to make more use of crowdsourcing for R&D ideas through InnoCentive and others.

From the competition, Boehringer Ingelheim hopes to uncover new processes that further the promise of endogenous, or adult, stem cells for regenerative medicine. Adult stem cells are those inhabiting human tissue, as opposed to embryonic stem cells that can transform into any cells in the body. Adult stem cells, however, may be more readily available with patients, and do not carry the ethical baggage of embryonic stem cells with some people.

Adult stem cells maintain and repair the tissue in which they reside, and like embryonic stem cells transform or differentiate into some or all of their representative tissue cells. Current methods for differentiating adult stem cells into functioning tissue cells, in most cases, first require genetically reprogramming stem cells into a state similar to embryonic cells. These induced pluripotent stem cells are already proving to be valuable tools in drug development, and eventually for transplantation.

Boehringer Ingelheim is seeking new molecular mechanisms and processes for collecting, stimulating, and differentiating adult stem cells for regenerative cell-replacement therapies. The solutions should address, direct, or enhance the built-in capabilities of adult stem cells to maintain human tissue.

InnoCentive calls this type of competition an ideation challenge, which requires a brief (two-page) proposal. Ideation proposals can contain ideas originating from the participants, the public domain where no restrictions are applied, or third-parties where participants have the rights to propose solutions with those ideas. Participants are asked not to submit confidential information in their proposals.

Boehringer Ingelheim says it plans to award the entire $15,000 challenge purse, with at least one award being no smaller than $5,000 and no award being smaller than $1,000. The sponsor also indicates that submitting a proposal grants the sponsor a non-exclusive, perpetual, and royalty-free license to use any information in the proposal. An exclusive transfer of intellectual property rights to the sponsor, however, is not required.

Participants in the competition with their own research facilities can apply for funding to carry out the research plan in their challenge proposals. Boehringer Ingelheim says delivery schedules and funding amounts for these research plans will be negotiated separately from the challenge awards. The company says the optional research proposals will also be considered separately from the challenge submissions, but still have a 24 June 2016 deadline.

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