WASHINGTON, March 9, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The ALS Association, in partnership with Prize4Life, is pleased to announce the First Phase winners of The ALS Assistive Technology Challenge. The Challenge now enters its Prize Phase, which will result in a $400,000 prize for the development of flexible, accessible technology to help people with ALS communicate with ease. The Prize Phase is open to academics, industry, start-ups and anyone that believes they can make a difference for people living with ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (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 approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) modestly extends survival. Due to the total paralysis associated with ALS, patients are often left with very limited means of communication and might become completely locked in.
Teams in the First Phase of the Challenge were asked to submit proposals for functional prototypes of novel communication systems that incorporate ease of use and adaptability to the changing needs of people living with ALS. The winning projects announced today each received a $50,000 grant to further the development of their prototypes. The First Phase winners include:
Dianne Goodwin, M.E., B.M.E., BlueSky Designs, Minneapolis
Title: Power positioning of speech devices and other essential equipment
Project Goal: To expand on the capabilities of a powered mounting and positioning system that allows independent repositioning of communication, hydration and suctioning devices by people at various stages living with ALS.
Doron Friedman, Sammy Ofer School of Communications (New Media), The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel
Project Goal: To establish an easy to use, low cost communication device that is operated by facial gestures.
Ivo Vieira, LusoSpace Projectos de Engenheria Lda, Lisbon, Portugal
Title: ARTERFACE – Augmented Reality Interface
Project Goal: To make a first step for levering the EyeSpeak product as an augmented reality interface with eye tracking for the ALS community.
John Costello, B.S., M.A., Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston
Title: Message Bank Conversion and Storage Software for ALS Patients
Project Goal: To develop a software based system that allows people to use hand held recording devices to bank messages throughout the day in functional and in the moment scenarios and then download those directly to software that can label, categorize and archive the messages.
"This is a challenge aimed at accelerating innovation in one of the areas of greatest need for people with ALS - the power to maintain their ability to communicate as the disease progresses," said Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., M.B.A., Chief Scientist for The ALS Association. "We are excited to see that we received a robust response to the program from diverse international teams with innovative projects."
The Prize Phase, launched today, includes a $400,000 award to be given to the group with the most promising technology as assessed directly by people living with ALS. The Prize Phase is open to everyone regardless of participation in the First Phase and will conclude in December with an announcement of the winner at a finale event in Dublin, Ireland.
"As long as there is no cure for ALS, technology is the cure. The ALS Assistive Technology Challenge is meant to truly transform the lives of ALS patients," stated Shay Rishoni, M.B.A., CEO of Prize4Life and a person living with ALS. "We see around us great technological development, such as touch screen technology, 'mind reading technology' and so on, and we want to harness these innovative tools to the needs of people with ALS."
The continued ability to communicate is universally identified by people living with ALS as one of the top priorities for maintaining quality of life. Unfortunately, current assistive communication systems do not fully meet the unique needs of people with ALS. "We hope to see this Challenge change that," stated Prize4Life Chief Scientific Officer Neta Zach, Ph.D., M.P.A. "We want to demonstrate through this Challenge, the needs of patients and the technologies that can solve them, so that development of solutions for people with ALS will continue well beyond this Challenge."
For more information about the Challenge, including First Phase winners and details on submitting Prize Phase proposals, please visit the Challenge website.
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.
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 persons living with ALS, Prize4Life encourages and rewards creative approaches that will yield real results for people living with ALS. For more information, visit our website at http://www.prize4life.org.il.
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SOURCE The ALS Association