Using data from old clinical trials, two groups of researchers have found a better way to predict how amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) progresses in different patients. The winning algorithms—designed by non-ALS experts—outperformed the judgments of a group of ALS clinicians given the same data. The advances could make it easier to test whether new drugs can slow the fatal neurodegenerative disease.
The new work was inspired by the so-called ALS Prediction Prize, a joint effort by the ALS-focused nonprofit Prize4Life and Dialogue for Reverse Engineering Assessments and Methods (DREAM), a computational biology project whose sponsors include IBM and Columbia University. Announced in 2012, the $50,000 award was designed to bring in experts from outside the ALS field to tackle the notoriously unpredictable illness.