Prize4Life Launches $1 million Prize for ALS Research

HBS Student and Alum to launch a $1 million prize for the discovery of a bio-marker for ALS.

Prize4Life Inc., the non-profit organization founded by Avi Kremer (OI) and Nathan Boaz (MBA 2006) announced on November 6 that it will launch a $1 million prize for scientists and researchers who discover a bio-marker for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the Hall of Fame baseball legend who died of the disease in 1941.

A biomarker is a distinctive biological or biologically derived indicator that can mark the presence and/or progression of a disease. Currently, there are no known biomarkers for ALS for either diagnosing or measuring the progression of the disease.

“Valid biomarkers will enhance our understanding of the pathological process in ALS and our ability to gauge treatment efficacy,” said Robert H. Brown, MD, D.Phil. Brown is a member of the Prize4Life Scientific Advisory Board, as well as founder and director of the Day Neuromuscular Research Laboratory, director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital, and professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

“Such markers can potentially speed up drug discovery protocols and substantially shorten the time and expense for treatment trials in ALS,” he said.

The Prize4Life Biomarker Prize is divided into two tracks-theoretical findings and real outcomes. The first track is a call for scientists and researchers from all backgrounds to submit theoretical papers on how they would develop a biomarker for ALS. Prize4Life will award up to $15,000 each for up to five of the best ideas.

Parallel to the first track, the second track will involve delivering an actual ALS biomarker. While participants in the first track will have the opportunity to advance to the second track, Prize4Life will offer those ideas to other scientists to reduce them to practice if they cannot do so. The second track is open to anyone, even those who did not participate in the initial theoretical discovery.

The Biomarker Prize is the first prize challenge launched by Prize4Life. Avi Kremer was quoted in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in June this year as saying that he would like to offer a total of $10 million in prizes to offer scientists an incentive to accelerate research in ALS. Avi, who was diagnosed with ALS in first semester at HBS in 2004, has pushed for advances in ALS research since his diagnosis. He took a semester off in 2005 to be CEO of IsrALS, a nonprofit organization which promotes ALS research, and recently founded Prize4Life with classmate Nathan Boaz as well as AviTx, a biotech firm pursing early stage ALS discoveries.