CHICAGO, Feb. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Diagnosis is one of the most challenging problems faced by rare disease patients and caregivers. The Shire Rare Disease Impact Report found that it takes an average of 7.6 years for rare disease patients in the US to receive a proper diagnosis, with 2-3 misdiagnoses along the way. One reason is that, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates, only 500 of the 7,000 rare diseases are likely to be in a physician's repertoire for diagnosis.
Author and geneticist Sharon Moalem, MD, PhD will be part of an unprecedented collaboration to create an open source solution that will help doctors save lives at Healthcare's Grand HackFest with H@cking Medicine at MIT on March 14-16. The hackathon is the final push that will follow more than seven years of research and investments by Dr. Moalem to develop an inexpensive facial recognition tool for genetic and congenital disorders by leveraging technology developed for the security industry. This disruptive technology may provide a way to help physicians screen for rare genetic conditions that would otherwise be missed.
"Right now the tool does only relative facial comparisons," Moalem explains. "I know it can do so much more and this hackathon will be what we need to take it to the next level—and ideally, arm doctors with crucial knowledge to help patients."
The hackathon is scheduled for March 14-16 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Staged by MIT and the Kauffman Foundation, the event brings together teams of engineers, entrepreneurs, designers, patients, and healthcare professionals to develop creative solutions and innovative breakthroughs in various tracks over the course of one weekend.
"The goal is to create an environment with enough support where these teams (usually pitched by clinicians) can really dive deep into the problems in healthcare, be matched with the right innovative people who provide solutions, and then work on the solution enough to have a product to demo at the end," explains Andrea Ippolito, co-leader of MIT H@cking Medicine.
The rare disease track of the hackathon emerged from a collaboration between Dr. Moalem and Wendy White, a rare disease caregiver and founder of Siren Interactive, a relationship marketing agency specializing in orphan drugs and rare diseases. They are partnering with the Global Genes Project, a leading rare disease patient advocacy organization, which will provide the resulting Recognyz software application to healthcare professionals.
According to White, "It's not realistic to expect physicians to be highly educated about 7000 different diseases–most of which they will never see in their practice. I can tell you as a rare disease caregiver that leveraging technology in this way will be a huge leap forward in getting a timely and accurate diagnosis and, for some patients, more effective treatment."
Cross-functional teams will compete over the course of 3 days to refine Moalem's rare disease diagnosis software and the winning team will receive funding for their approach. Moalem is donating his Recognyz patents to Global Genes so the tool can be offered free of charge to physicians.
"We are honored to be a strategic partner in this opportunity to offer a potentially game changing new tool to physicians," commented Nicole Boice, president and founder of Global Genes. "Providing it at little or no cost for greater adoption and increased patient access is even more appealing."
For information about the rare disease hackathon, contact: Ayesha N. Khalid, MD, 1-503-789-2203.
For more facts on rare disease diagnosis, view and share Siren's infographic, Journey into the Unknown, The Search for a Rare Diagnosis.
About Sharon Moalem, MD, PhD
Sharon Moalem MD, PhD, is a physician, scientist, and inventor. He has been researching rare disorders for the last 15 years working to find novel treatments for orphan diseases. Dr. Moalem is also a NYT bestselling author and his highly anticipated third book, Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives, and Our Lives Change Our Genes, demonstrates what rare genetic conditions can teach us about our health and wellbeing.
He is also the founder of two biotechnology companies and is the recipient of 20 patents for his inventions in biotechnology and human health. Dr. Moalem's scientific work, based upon using rare conditions as a template to understand more common conditions led to the discovery of Siderocillin, a new antibiotic that specifically targets so called 'superbugs' or multiresistant microbes that have increasingly become a serious threat to our health.
His current invention, a mobile application called Recogynz, was developed to provide an accessible tool to assist healthcare practitioners in the identification of facial features that are associated with rare disorders. The desire to create a mobile medical application, that could help in the detection of rare disorders, was rooted in the desire to reduce the time to diagnosis and in so doing improve health outcomes.
About Siren Interactive
Siren Interactive is a rare disease relationship marketing agency with unmatched expertise in addressing the challenges and unmet needs of patients, caregivers, and physicians dealing with rare disorders. For more than 14 years, across more than 30 different disease states, we've had 1 focus: Finding rare disease patients and connecting them to our clients' brands. As trailblazers in recognizing that patient-driven decision making is central to successful orphan drug commercialization, we are constantly innovating to meet patients and caregivers where they live. To learn more about our proprietary approaches to building trust relationships with rare disease stakeholders visit www.sireninteractive.com.
About Global Genes
Global Genes is a leading rare and genetic disease patient advocacy organization.The organization's mission is to 'Eliminate the Challenges of Rare Disease' by equipping patients to become successful advocates, and through education and empowerment, become 'activists' for their disease. Global Genes does this through a growing portfolio of educational tools and resources, events, building out critical connections and funding innovations in science and technology that will impact patients within their lifetime. Recognized worldwide by the Blue Denim Genes Ribbon™, Global Genes unites experts, advocates and patients of all ages to stand together in hope for treatments and cures for the estimated 7,000 rare and genetic diseases that impact approximately 30 million Americans and over 250 million people worldwide. For more information about Global Genes™, please visit the following links:
Twitter: @GlobalGenes - https://twitter.com/GlobalGenes
About MIT H@cking Medicine
Mentored by Entrepreneur in Residence and Senior Faculty member Zen Chu, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) H@cking Medicine's mission is to create an ecosystem at MIT, hosting the Boston medical community and beyond to teach engineers, entrepreneurs, clinicians, and designers the skills necessary to launch disruptive healthcare businesses. Healthcare needs Hackers—clever innovators to re-architect healthcare systems and create new products and services to impact cost and quality. Some areas of healthcare are not hackable and must prove efficacy down a traditional plodding path. However, health professionals and engineers can accelerate medical innovation across many diseases and institutions by applying techniques from high technology to healthcare. Borrowing philosophies from Silicon Valley and MIT for rapid product design, lean startup methodologies, workflow re-engineering, novel data collection, big data analysis, and info publishing can have powerful effects in healthcare.
SOURCE Global Genes