21st Century Brain Trust-Tracking Brain Health with Mobile Apps- Wins $100,000 in Sanofi Collaborate/Activate Innovation Challenge

  • Press Release
Published on:

WASHINGTON, DC-"The 21st Century Brain Trust™," a coalition of four nonprofit organizations working to end Alzheimer's disease, took a $100,000 prize, out of submissions from more than 280 partnering organizations to the Sanofi US's Partners in Patient Health Collaborate | Activate Innovation Challenge.

The time has come to develop self-administered cognitive testing applications (apps), which individuals could use to measure their brain health over many years and help scientists in the fight against cognitive disorders, according to the 21st Century Brain Trust (21CBT), a project of the American Health Assistance Foundation, Geoffrey Beene Gives Back Alzheimer's Initiative (GBGBAI), the USAgainstAlzheimer's Network, and the Cleveland Clinic/Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

“With the widespread use of expert-validated tests, results could help researchers trying to understand how Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia develop long before symptoms appear. Scientists could track changes in large populations over an extended period of time,” said Guy Eakin, Ph.D., American Health Assistance' vice president for scientific affairs.

Added George Vradenburg, chairman of USAgainstAlzheimer's: “I can stand on my scale to measure my weight, and I can gauge my temperature with my thermometer. But how many of us have a measure of our cognitive health? These are exciting times, when new technologies are allowing us to truly become experts on our own health.”

The Challenge competition is designed to develop programs that promote patient engagement in personal health. The first-prize winner is Registries for All Diseases, a proposal to use patient-generated information around rare diseases to accelerate development of clinical trials.

“The 21st Century BrainTrust moves the conversation for the “worried well” away from denial about a disease we all dread to one around optimal health,” said Meryl Comer, president of the GBGBAI. “Big ideas today need to offer a personal sense of empowerment. We think we've found one in wireless technology that can turn us into citizen scientists around our personal cognitive health.”

One of the toughest problems facing mobile health applications is the lack of scientifically validated studies that credential any given technology as an effective measurement tool. The next steps for the 21CBT team will be to test and highlight applications meeting this first key criterion.

“We're working to give people new ways to speak with their physicians,” said Eakin. “Clearly the first step in gaining the buy-in of the medical community is to subject these new technologies to a rigorous vetting process, so that's what we'll begin doing in 2013.”

Prominent scientists and others have praised the Brain Trust team's idea.

“The value of a project that assesses age-related cognitive changes in a user-friendly app across millions of people is immeasurable,” said Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D., the Kennedy Professor of Neuroscience at Harvard.

The 21st Century Brain Trust partners have received endorsements from leading non-profits across the neurodegenerative space, intrigued with the opportunity to make cognitive data collection, in the name of self-interest and advancing brain science, as simple as touching an app on a smart phone.

On behalf of the partners, Comer spoke to the power of the innovations challenge model: “Our thanks to Sanofi for being the catalyst that propelled our four non-profits to link up and leverage our combined strengths against a share vision that “our brainspans should match our lifespan” so we are the generation to remember.”

About the 21st Century Brain Trust Partners:

The American Health Assistance Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding cures for age-related degenerative diseases by funding research worldwide and providing public information under its three program areas: Alzheimer's Disease Research, Macular Degeneration Research, and National Glaucoma Research.

Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health provides diagnosis and ongoing treatment for patients with cognitive disorders and support services for family members who care for them. Collaborative research partnerships help to advance Cleveland Clinic's groundbreaking clinical trials and offer hope for improving brain health.

Geoffrey Beene Gives Back Alzheimer's Initiative (GBGBAI) is a disruptive donor philanthropy that promotes innovation in early diagnosis and AD prevention. Funded by the Geoffrey Beene Foundation since 2008, GBGBAI is a marquis sponsor of HBO's The Alzheimer's Project, the award-winning Rock Stars of Science™ campaign, catalyst funder for the National AD Prevention Registry and open-source innovation challenges to accelerate AD research.

Us Against Alzheimer's Network (USA2) is a leader in marshaling political will toward combating Alzheimer's. One of only 12 non-governmental members of the National Alzheimer's Project Act Advisory Council, USA2 is also co-convener of the CEO Global Alzheimer's Initiative and Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer's Disease (LEAD), a coalition of 40 organizations from the government, business and civic sectors.