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Let the disruption begin! In September, at an event launching GE’s billion dollar global campaign against cancer, a panel of health care innovators, venture capitalists and Silicon Valley luminaries discussed how to disrupt the way cancer diagnosis currently works and improve patient outcomes. It wasn’t just talk. GE backed up the conversation with the new $100 million healthymagination challenge, an open innovation challenge to find and fund the best new ideas for improving breast cancer detection and diagnosis.
The healthcare community listened. In just nine weeks, cancer researchers and innovators from more than 200 academic and other institutions from 40 countries submitted over 500 ideas. Today in San Francisco, GE announced the first five winners of the innovation award. They will each receive $100,000 in seed money to fund further research, as well as access and mentoring by GE researchers and leading industry innovators.
The winning entries reflect a range of compelling ideas for tackling breast cancer diagnostics:
- MyCancerGenome.org is a freely available online tool for doctors, patients, researchers and others that helps personalize the treatment of triple negative breast cancer by providing easily accessible, mutation-specific information and even clinical trials related to different forms of breast cancer.
- Researchers at the University of Akron are developing next-generation prostheses for breast reconstruction that use coatings with pharmaceutical agents to help fight infection, reduce inflammation and possibly even target and destroy stray cancer cells.
- Moffitt Cancer Center conducts research on “modifier” genes and their role in predisposition to the spread of cancer. This research could form the basis of a diagnostic test for genes that indicate that a patient is at a disproportionate risk for cancer spread and help guide the aggressiveness of treatment.
- The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala are setting up a breast cancer screening program to educate Ugandan women about breast cancer. They offer breast exams and ultrasounds to women with symptoms, and treatment if malignancy is diagnosed.
- Researchers at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center have shown that gene expression analysis reveals at least six different subtypes for triple negative breast cancer, each of which is likely to respond differently to chemotherapy. The Center is now designing clinical trials with personalized therapy for each subtype.
The winners were chosen by a judging panel composed of venture capital partners, GE executives and leading healthcare figures, such as former U.S. FDA Commissioner and National Cancer Institute Director Dr. Andrew Von Eschenbach; Professor of Surgery and Director of the University of Michigan Breast Cancer Center Dr. Lisa Newman; and cancer medicine specialist and Imperial College’s professor of cancer medicine Dr. Justin Stebbing.