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The Michael J. Fox Foundation Announces $25,000 Data Challenge to Advance Parkinson’s Understanding and Study Design

  • Foundation Calls Computational Analysts to Develop Quantitative Models from Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative Dataset
  • Answering Fundamental Questions on Parkinson’s Progression and Sub-types Will Assist in Development and Testing of New Therapies
  • Two Winners Will Each Receive a $25,000 Prize

NEW YORK — The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) today announced a data challenge to answer fundamental questions about Parkinson’s disease and accelerate development and testing of new therapies. Data scientists can apply to win a $25,000 prize for using de-identified, open-access information from the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) — a longitudinal, observational study sponsored by MJFF — to answer one of these questions:

  • What factors at baseline predict clinical progression?
  • What are the sub-types of Parkinson’s disease?

“PPMI offers an unprecedented set of clinical, molecular and imaging data to construct models that will help better characterize Parkinson’s disease,” said Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation. “The variability of Parkinson’s challenges therapeutic development and testing; answers to these questions would help us target and treat this disease better and faster.”

Submissions are due Wednesday, September 7, 2016, and will be judged on methodology, predictive accuracy of statistical model and algorithms; and impact, relevancy and usability in Parkinson’s research. MJFF and external reviewers will evaluate the submissions, and winners will be named in November. Interested applicants are invited to attend a live webinar on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, for more information on the challenge and to ask questions. Visit to learn more, register for the webinar and apply for the data challenge prize.

Given the scope and breadth of the PPMI dataset, applicants may request to be matched with a Parkinson’s researcher for assistance in navigating the dataset and prioritizing relevance to disease diagnosis and progression.

Launched in 2000, PPMI has enrolled nearly 1,000 participants: people with early-stage Parkinson’s, those with clinical risk factors (hyposmia, or smell loss, and REM sleep behavior disorder), carriers of genetic mutations associated with Parkinson’s (both individuals with the disease and without), and control volunteers. Over five years, participants undergo clinical assessments, contribute biological samples and complete imaging scans. After the initial five years, volunteers can continue contributing data and biosamples through a modified protocol.

The study is supported by 17 industry partners, including GE Healthcare, which will provide one of the $25,000 prizes. (MJFF will provide the other.)

“GE Healthcare is excited to participate in this open innovation project with The Michael J. Fox Foundation that will leverage the unique PPMI data set to develop innovative digital solutions in the management of Parkinson’s disease,” said Etienne Montagut, global product leader-Neurology and Cardiology, GE Healthcare's Life Sciences business. “I’m confident the project can ultimately improve diagnosis and prognosis in PD that will lead to better patient outcomes.”

The primary aim of PPMI is to identify and validate biological markers of Parkinson’s disease for diagnosis, tracking and intervention testing. In parallel, though, this rich dataset can provide a platform for discovery and replication of varied research findings. PPMI has made de-identified data available in real-time since its launch, and the open-access set has been downloaded more than 620,000 times.

This challenge leverages PPMI data to characterize the heterogeneous disease. Parkinson’s is highly variable, with age of onset, rate of progression, and type and severity of symptoms different across the 5 million worldwide living with the disease. Identifying models for prognosis and sub-typing would aid in subject selection for clinical studies and design of trials toward novel therapies.

About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
As the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson’s disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson’s patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $600 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson’s research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson’s disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson’s awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world.

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