Accelerating Medical Discovery

Bringing the open-source movement to medical discoveries to accelerate disease research

Dates of Project: February 2012 through April 2013

Ashoka Changemakers partnered with Sage Bionetworks to launch and pilot-test BRIDGE, an online platform that enables researchers, patients, and funders to collaborate as well as compete to accelerate medical discovery.

Description: Ashoka is a global association of social entrepreneurs who seek to solve the world’s most urgent problems. Ashoka Changemakers sponsors online competitions that convene innovators and investors to share their ideas. Sage Bionetworks promotes a community-based approach to scientific innovation.

“The challenge was important in showing the diversity of people who can solve a research problem.”—Project Co-Director Stephen S. Friend, MD, PhD.

The project was one of eight “idea competitions” funded by RWJF and sponsored by Ashoka Changemakers from 2006 to 2012.

Key Results

  • The project team launched “Version 0” of BRIDGE, a website that linked Ashoka’s approach to collaborative competition with Sage Bionetworks’ Synapse, a computing platform that allows researchers to share data, tools, and models.

  • To test whether researchers could compete and collaborate at the same time, the team sponsored the Sage/DREAM Breast Cancer Prognosis Challenge. Some 350 researchers in 35 countries used molecular biomarkers to develop computer models predicting how long breast cancer patients will live. The winning model bested current clinical standards.

  • To test whether BRIDGE could engage patients in proposing research questions, the project team posted a survey on the website asking patients with Fanconi anemia and researchers working on the disease about key health concerns related to the disease. The patients wanted to know who was at risk for head and neck cancers and how to spot early warning signs, and asked for online tools to support oral health.

The project team is using follow-up projects to enable BRIDGE to serve as a “town square” where researchers, patients, and funders can exchange ideas and information and pursue collaborative competitions.

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