The ALS Association

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Carrie Munk
The ALS Association



The ALS Association and Prize4Life Announce Five Finalists for $400K Assistive Technology Challenge

Washington, D.C. (November 22, 2016) — The ALS Association and Prize4Life announced today the five finalists for the ALS Assistive Technology Challenge, a $400,000 award for the development of flexible, accessible technology to help people with ALS communicate with ease. The winner of the challenge will be selected in Dublin, Ireland, on Monday, Dec. 5 at the International Symposium of ALS/MND.

“Each one of the five finalist groups took a unique approach for tackling the challenges facing people living with ALS. We are very excited about these innovative and groundbreaking technologies and are confident that any one of them has the potential to make a significant impact on the quality of live of people living with ALS and their families and caregivers,” said Maya Bronfeld, Ph.D., Prize4Life Scientific Officer.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Eventually, people with ALS lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement, which often leads to total paralysis and death within two to five years of diagnosis. For unknown reasons, veterans are twice as likely to develop ALS as the general population. There is no cure, and only one drug modestly extends survival by only a few months.

“We are extremely grateful for all the submission received for the challenge,” said Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., M.B.A., Chief Scientist for The ALS Association. “We look forward to the official judging in Dublin, which includes not only notable ALS scientists and technology experts but also people living with the disease, who will know better than anyone the impact this new technology will have in adapting to the symptoms of ALS and improving quality of life.”

Team name: BlueSky Designs
Lead investigator: Dianne Goodwin, M.E., B.M.E.
Team members: Nick Lee, Marty Stone and Peter Loeffler
Location: Minneapolis, Minn.

Team name: Boston Children’s Hospital
Lead investigator: John M. Costello, Director of ALS Augmentative Communication Program, Boston Children’s Hospital
Team members: Ole Alexander Maehle, Vice President of Engineering; Ragnar Mjelde, Program Manager; David Lee, Project Manager; TobiiDynavox International
Location: Boston, Mass.

Team name: Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior
Lead investigator: Peter Desain, Chair of Artificial Intelligence
Team members: Joost Raaphorst, Jan Groothuis, Janneke Weikamp, Radboud University Medical Center (NL), Neurology and Rehabilitation Departments; Bart van de Warrenburg, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (NL), Knowledge Utilisation; Evy Reviers, ALS Liga (BE), Patient Associations, Communication; Mike Chi, Cognionics (VS), EEG equipment; Merijn Klarenbeek, WeBoost, (NL) Project Management; Peter Ossenkoppele, rdgKompagne, (NL) Assistive Technology Provider
Location: Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Team name: Pison Technology
Lead investigator: Dexter Ang
Team members: David Cipoletta, Julia Zhu, Wenxin Feng and Kyle Connors
Location: Brookline, Mass.

Team name: Project Vive
Lead investigator: Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, CEO & Founder
Team members: Joseph McCulloch, CTO, Rodney Miller, Lead Developer
Location: Howard, Pa.

To learn more about the ALS Assistive Technology Challenge, and read short descriptions of the prototypes developed by the five finalists, please visit

About Prize4Life
Prize4Life is non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate the discovery of treatments and a cure for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) by using powerful incentives to attract new people and drive innovation - from therapeutic development to assistive technology. Prize4Life believes that solutions to some of the biggest challenges in ALS research will require out-of-the-box thinking, and that some of the most critical discoveries may come from unlikely places. Founded in 2006 by Avi Kremer and managed by Shay Rishoni, both people living with ALS, Prize4Life encourages and rewards creative approaches that will yield real results for ALS patients. For more information, visit

About The ALS Association
The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front.  By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers, and fostering government partnerships, The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure.  For more information about The ALS Association, visit our website at

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