Medical Research Centers, Technology Companies and 1,000 ALS Patients Unite in Global Collaborative Search for New Treatment Protocols
The Answer ALS research program, a consortium of medical research centers, technology companies like Avanade, and 1,000 ALS patients, has completed phase one development of a massive technology infrastructure that could be a game-changer in the fight against ALS. The project will allow medical researchers around the world to securely collaborate in their search for the causes of ALS and develop new treatment protocols.
Answer ALS research, coordinated and driven by Johns Hopkins and the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research, is the largest-ever ALS research effort. Its goal: achieve unseen levels of biological analysis by partnering with technology companies eager to stretch the boundaries of cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in a global search for ALS answers and treatments.
At the heart of Answer ALS is open collaboration and unimaginable amounts of data. The organization worked with Avanade and other technology partners to build an extensive cloud-based research infrastructure that can not only securely accommodate trillions of bits of data, but also is designed to incorporate AI, machine learning and additional data as the project proceeds. This will allow Answer ALS to continue to take advantage of emerging technologies as its work progresses. One critical part of the infrastructure is a data query engine, developed by Avanade as part of its Technology for Social Good initiative, that allows researchers to submit a complicated research query and get an answer in hours rather than days or weeks.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive motor neuron disease that slowly robs patients of their ability to move, speak and even, in the end, breathe. Researchers estimate there are as many as 400,000 ALS patients worldwide. About 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS each year.
“Today we can interrogate cell function like never before,” said Emily Baxi, Ph.D., executive director of the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research. “Answer ALS researchers are essentially building thousands of patient profiles, constructed piece by piece from multiple sources of data. Using the power of AI and machine learning to integrate and analyze these profiles, we hope Answer ALS will lay the groundwork for uncovering ALS patient subgroups and identify the most effective treatment strategies for each.”
“Avanade’s purpose is to make a genuine human impact,” said Avanade CEO Pam Maynard. “And what better way to do that than to help Answer ALS search for treatments, or even a cure for ALS? Our Avanade team is excited and honored to work with this inspiring group of medical researchers, technology partners and patient participants.”
“If we truly want to have an impact on seemingly incurable diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dozens of others, large scale, coordinated and collaborative efforts aided by technology are the best way to rapidly move forward,” said former NFL player Steve Gleason, an ALS patient himself, who now leads Team Gleason, a foundation instrumental in the formation of Answer ALS. “We haven’t answered ALS yet, but we are closer than ever before. Our work with technology partners like Avanade is a big reason for that.”