The Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s disease (CEOi), nonprofit biomedical research organization Sage Bionetworks and the DREAM Project have launched the Alzheimer’s Disease Big Data DREAM Challenge #1, in an effort to advance diagnostic innovation and identify new Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers through the use of open source data.
The goal of the AD#1 challenge is to apply an open science approach to rapidly identify accurate predictive Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers that can be used by the scientific, industry and regulatory communities to improve Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment. AD#1 will be the first in a series of Alzheimer’s data challenges to leverage genetics and brain imaging in combination with cognitive assessments, biomarkers and demographic information from cohorts ranging from cognitively normal to mild cognitively impaired to individuals with Alzheimer’s.
“Alzheimer’s is more costly to society than cancer, yet there currently is no cure, treatment or means of prevention,” said George Vradenburg, convener of CEOi and chairman of USAgainstAlzheimer’s. “This unprecedented and innovative challenge will showcase the use of open science using 21st century tools, leading to a potential breakthrough for the Alzheimer’s research community.”
The AD#1 challenge is hosted on Synapse, Sage Bionetworks’ open computational platform, an integrated knowledge environment in which data (e.g. human sequence and image data) and models (e.g. prediction and the underlying model source code) can be shared and worked on collaboratively by teams of teams. The challenge will be judged objectively against data that has been hidden from participants.
“This challenge will showcase the power of open science in breaking down barriers that slow innovation in the race to cure Alzheimer’s,” said Stephen Friend, president and co-founder of Sage Bionetworks. “Through this series of big challenges, we hope to move closer to solving this intractable problem of Alzheimer’s.”
The open source data from Alzheimer’s patients is provided by the North American Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), Rush University Medical Center and the U.K.’s AddNeuroMed Study, and will include results from imaging, clinical, whole genome sequencing and multiple cognitive tests that were conducted on a cohort of individuals who have aged normally, suffer from mild-cognitive impairment or have Alzheimer’s disease. More than 200 people with bioinformatics experience from around the world already have signed up to participate in the challenge.
While there has been huge growth in scientific data due to declining costs and advances in technology, there remains very little crowdsourcing of findings among researchers. In recent years, however, pharmaceutical companies have shown an increased willingness to share pre-competitive data, as R&D has declined. This development has occurred alongside recent efforts by regulatory agencies to encourage data standardization, disclosure and sharing.
More than 40 million people globally suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The global cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s is more than 1% of global economic output, or $600 billion annually. In coming years, as more and more baby boomers reach the age of risk for the disease, those numbers are projected to skyrocket without a treatment to slow the progression of the disease.