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$50,000 Challenge Seeks Liver Disease Biomarkers

Liver illustration

(Mikael Häggström, Wikimedia Commons)

19 June 2015. A new challenge on InnoCentive asks for biomarkers indicating damage to the liver, conditions that today often require invasive procedures such as biopsies to diagnose. The competition has a total purse of $50,000 and a deadline for proposals of 17 August 2015.

InnoCentive in Waltham, Massachusetts conducts open-innovation, crowdsourcing competitions for corporate and organization sponsors. The sponsor in this case is not identified. Free registration is required to see details of the competition.

The liver is an essential organ in the body for digestion and getting rid of toxic substances. Damage to the liver can occur from genetic causes or result from viruses, heavy drinking, or obesity. Scarring of the liver, known as fibrosis, is an excessive build-up of cell matrix components that interferes with the liver’s functioning, with symptoms occurring such as yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice), abdominal pain, and swelling of legs and ankles.

Advanced cases of liver scarring can lead to cirrhosis, resulting in permanent damage to the liver, raising the risk of serious complications including liver cancer, and increasing the need for a liver transplant. In addition, infections of the liver, from viruses in blood or sexual contact, can lead to different types of hepatitis that damage the liver.

The sponsor of the challenge is seeking biomarkers — indicators of biological states or conditions — for liver fibrosis. Diagnosing liver disorders today often requires a biopsy, surgical removal of a small piece of the liver for analysis. Biopsies can be painful for individuals with suspected liver disease, thus an important criterion in assessing solutions proposed in the challenge is the degree of invasiveness. Proposed biomarkers should be specific and sensitive indicators that can help guide treatment decisions.

InnoCentive calls this type of competition a theoretical challenge requiring a written proposal that fleshes out an idea before it becomes a proven concept. Proposals submitted in a theoretical challenge usually offer detailed descriptions and specifications showing how the ideas would work.

The challenge has a total purse of $50,000 although InnoCentive does not indicate the number of awards planned or value of individual awards.  The sponsor asks competitors receiving awards to grant a non-exclusive license to their intellectual property, after first granting the sponsor a 180-day period of exclusivity to negotiate licensing terms. Entrants not receiving awards will retain all intellectual property rights after the evaluation period.

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