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Cloud Services Create Rare Disease Solutions Challenge

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Assay Depot, a cloud-based network of scientific services, and Rare Genomics Institute, a network and crowdfunding platform for genetic diseases, started a challenge competition for research proposals leading to diagnostics and treatments for rare diseases. The challenge will award prizes of $10,000 in cash and donated research services valued at up to $400,000 from participating providers.

The competiton, called Be HEARD — short for Helping Empower and Accelerate Research Discoveries — aims to connect researcher from not-for-profit organizations, academic institutions, rare disease advocacy groups, families of rare disease patients, and for-profit companies to collaborate on rare disease research that can lead to treatments. The organizers encourage families affected by rare diseases, advocacy groups, foundations, and for-profit companies to collaborate with researchers at not-for-profit institutions.

Most of the challenge awards are given in the form of in-kind research services from sponsoring service providers. The top-level service-provider sponsors include Biopta, Charles River Laboratories, DNA Software, HistoRx, Ingenuity Systems, and Taconic. Examples of donated services are cell-based models, underused antibody production capacity, animal disease model services, and molecular biology services. Challenge applicants can indicate one or more of these services they would use in their research.

Applications are open through 15 December 2012. The challenge organizers say research proposals will be evaluated by a panel of scientists, who will select the proposals best suited for the donated services. The overall winner for the cash prize, which is expected to be applied to the research, will be selected from a list of finalists by voting on Facebook.

Assay Depot operates a network of online research marketplaces with more than 8,000 research vendors worldwide that aims to streamline purchases between scientists. Rare Genomics Institute is a not-for-profit organization that combines an expert network and online crowdfunding to help families source, design, and fund personalized research projects in diseases that would not otherwise be studied.

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