The ALS Assistive Technology Challenge
Help someone with ALS have a voice
The ALS Assistive Technology Challenge, a joint initiative by The ALS Association and Prize4Life, is offering a $400,000 prize for the development of flexible, accessible technology to help people with ALS communicate with ease. The challenge is open to academics, industry, young start-ups and anyone that believes they can make a difference for people living with ALS.
About the Challenge
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The ALS Assistive Technology Challenge is comprised of two phases.
The first Prize Phase, which launched in October 2015, concluded with four $50,000 winners announced March 9, 2016. These grants are to help with the development of prototypes for communications.
The second Prize Phase, which takes place March 2016 to December 2016, will result in a $400,000 award. The first $100,000 will be given when the winner is announced and the remaining $300,000 will be given in three installations when three particular milestones are reached over a maximum two-year time frame.
Teams are invited (whether they participated in the first phase or not) to submit their prototype, which will be judged and tested by ALS patients.
To enter the Prize Phase, teams must have a working prototype of their communication solutions, which should be:
- Effective and innovative beyond currently available technologies.
- Easy to use (including possible interface with users) and adaptive to the diverse and changing needs of individuals with ALS, including patients with no limb movement or speech capabilities.
- Cost effective and affordable (either directly through price or through a reasonable path to becoming integrated into standard care and reimbursement by international insurance organizations).
- Accessible to patients (i.e., can be used in a wide range of places and situations).
- Portable and easy to manipulate.
- Scalable within a reasonable timeline (including regulatory requirements from FDA, FCC and UL). Preference will be given to solutions that are developed with interfaces in multiple languages.
- Easy to use, including possible interface with users.
- Battery powered with abundant life.
General user satisfaction is also part of the award criteria. Testing with patients is highly valuable and encouraged. The organizers will try to assist interested teams in connecting with people living with ALS whenever possible.
Solutions may include hardware or software development that enables communication without relying on either limb movement or speech. Examples include eye movement tracking and Brain Machine Interface based on diverse neuronal signals.
Anyone may enter the challenge: teams currently in the assistive technology field as well as those that possess the necessary skills but are not currently working with people with ALS. The challenge is open to both new participants as well as those who participated in the grant phase of the challenge. The rapid growth in technological solutions for communication (e.g., touchscreens and hand-free devices) demonstrates that there is a vast technological potential in both industry and academia that can be tapped to better the lives of people with ALS.
The ALS Assistive Technology Challenge registration form is intended to present the team and the project to the judging panel as well as to the general public that will be displayed on the Challenge website. Information provided will be used for considering your registration to the Challenge. To register for the Challenge, please provide the following information on the form about your team and project. The Challenge organizers may follow up with you with further questions as needed. Once your registration is approved, some of the information outlined here will be used as part of the project description on the webpage.
The Registration Form can be found here.
To register for the Challenge, please provide the following information on the form about your team and project. The information should not exceed one page (font type: Univers 11) and should describe effective and innovative solutions for communication technology for ALS patients that demonstrate:
- Ease of use and ability to adapt to the diverse and changing needs of the ALS patient population, who are at varying disease stages. Stages include patients with either limited capacity to speak loudly and clearly; to use their hands, legs or both; or to move head, eyes, or body.
- Accessibility in diverse places and situations.
- Affordability either directly or by becoming integrated into standard care and reimbursed by international insurance organizations.
- Adaptability and flexibility - To assure a comprehensive approach to patients' quality of life by allowing the technology to be combined with other solutions and to be of continuous use as the disease progresses.
- Software solutions that are adaptable to diverse platforms. Solutions developed for several user languages will be preferred.
- A reasonable path and timeline for scaling up production, in order to address the need of a meaningful part of the ALS patient population.
Letter of Intent: In addition to registration, teams will be required to to submit a Letter of Intent by July 29.
Applications will be evaluated based on criteria of scientific merit and feasibility which should be succinctly addressed in the letter of intent. The letter of intent should not exceed two pages (font type: Univers 11) according to the section outlined in the LOI form, including:
- Brief description of the communication solution.
- Description of preliminary results (if any).
- Brief budget and timeline.
- Outline of the project's scientific merit.
- Outline of the project feasibility.
LOI’s will be reviewed by the judging committee and selected teams will be notified during September 2016 and requested to make a full written submission by October 7, 2016.
The ALS Association and Prize4Life are extremely grateful for the participation of numerous volunteer judges who are lending their time and talent to help evaluate all ALS Assistive Technology Challenge solutions. They include:
Ammar Al-Chalabi, M.D.
Director of King’s Care Centre and Professor of Neurology and Complex Genetics at King’s College London
Merit Cudkowicz, M.D., MSc
Director of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) MDA ALS clinic, Chief of Neurology Service, Co-Director of the Neurological Clinical Research Institute and the Neuromuscular Division at MGH and a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School
Sabrina Paganoni, M.D.
Dr. Paganoni obtained her MD degree at the University of Milan in Italy and a PhD in Neuroscience at Northwestern University, Chicago, IL. She completed her medical training in Boston: residency at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). She is Board-certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Neuromuscular Medicine, and Electrodiagnostic Medicine. She is currently working at MGH in the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) clinic and is faculty at the MGH Neurological Clinical Research Institute. Her research focuses on ALS therapy development including the use of neuroimaging studies in early clinical trials.
Terry Heiman-Patterson, M.D.
Section Chief of neuromuscular disorders at Drexel University College of Medicine; Medical Director of the MDA/ALS Center of Hope at Drexel University College of Medicine; Co-Founder and President of the board of the ALS Hope Foundation; Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Neurology at Drexel University College of Medicine, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Pharmacology & Physiology
A patient advocate and successful entrepreneur in the maritime and oil industry; founder of drug company, Treeway; and co-founder of Project MinE, the largest ALS genetic research project
A former successful executive, Iron Man and military colonel; CEO of Prize4Life, working to promote ALS research, care and advocacy
A patient advocate, co-founder of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge; and founder of Quinn for the Win
Principal Development Lead at Microsoft Research Connections
Jane Huggins, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor at the departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan
Bob Koppes, MSc, M.B.A.
A management consultant at Accenture, Amsterdam
A rehabilitation engineer at Duke University Health system
An honorary judge in the ALS Assistive Technology Challenge, Steve is a former professional football player, who played safety with the NFL's New Orleans Saints from 2000-2008. In 2011 he was diagnosed with ALS, which led him to start Team Gleason, aimed to show patients can not only live but thrive after an ALS diagnosis.