The ALS Association
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. (December 7, 2016) — The ALS Association and Prize4Life are proud to announce the winners of the $400,000 award of the ALS Assistive Technology Challenge, for the development of flexible, accessible technology to help people with ALS communicate with ease. The finale event and award ceremony took place in Dublin, Ireland on Monday, Dec. 5 at the ALS/MND International Alliance Meeting. Two teams were announced the winners, which The Association intends to fund. The Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior team led by Peter Desain, Ph.D. from the Netherlands, won a prize for their NoiseTag Brain Computer Interface (BCI) technology. The Pison Technology team, led by Dexter Ang from Brookline Mass., won a prize for their wearable electromyography (EMG) sensors. Both teams exhibited unique and innovative technologies and had promising potential for offering life altering communication solutions for people living with ALS.
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.
“It was an exciting day at the finale event,” stated Chief Scientist for The Association, Lucie Bruijn, MBA, Ph.D. “I congratulate all five outstanding teams who presented unique assistive technology prototypes that will be important tools for people living with ALS. There was wonderful collaboration with people living with ALS who came out to test the different technologies. Our judges demonstrated commitment for over a year to make this successful event come to fruition.”
“We are very excited about the truly innovative technologies presented by the winning teams and look forward to seeing them translate the prize money into novel assistive communication solutions that will be available for ALS patients worldwide in the upcoming years and could have a transformative effect on their quality of life,” stated Maya Bronfeld, Scientific Officer for Prize4Life.
Team name: Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior
Lead investigator: Peter Desain, Chair of Artificial Intelligenc
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
Description: Novel Noise-tagging Brain Computer Interface (BCI) allows paralyzed patients to communicate by selective attention. This method is well-suited for all ALS patients, not only for patients having difficulties with eye tracking. A recent neuro-scientific and machine-learning breakthrough at the Donders Institute, based on a model that predicts EEG signals, allows a radical increase in speed and reliability of the BCI: up to one command per second and up to 99% accurate. The method adapts on the fly to loose electrodes, is insensitive to artifacts, is plug-and-play (zero-training), and allows dry headsets to be used.
Team name: Pison Technology
Lead investigator: Dexter Ang
Team members: David Cipoletta, Julia Zhu, Wenxin Feng and Kyle Connors
Location: Brookline, Mass.
Description: Pison Technology is creating a motionless communication and control system for people with ALS and other neuromuscular conditions. It will allow a person with little to no movement ability to have full control of a laptop, a phone, and home robotics 24/7. The wearable sensors provide a real-time look into a person’s nervous system to help neurologists and pharmaceutical companies track electromyography (EMG) muscle strength on a daily basis. The prototype has been successfully tested on people who have no ability to move and will be used in clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
To read more about the ALS Assistive Technology Challenge, please visit http://www.alsa.org/research/als-assistive-technology-challenge.html. To learn more about assistive technology, please visit http://www.alsa.org/research/focus-areas/assistive-technology.
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 http://www.prize4life.org.il.
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 www.alsa.org.