The Promise of Open Protocol Development

We harness the power of crowds via tried-and-true crowdsourcing methods that are effectively being used by a number of major institutions including Eli Lilly, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, NASA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Examples of successful projects leveraging the crowd include:

Patients with ALS disease crowdsource their own clinical study

  • Members ran their own study on a drug treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
  • Testing the chemical lithium carbonate and tracking their disease status over time using the PatientsLikeMe.com platform, 3,500 individuals found out that lithium therapy had no observable effect.
  • The study was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Crowdsourcing in Structural Biology

  • One of the most striking examples of crowdsourcing in medical research was the recent elucidation of the crystal structure of retroviral protease by a group of on-line gamers.
  • In 10 days, two winning groups developed models that were close enough to the actual molecule to enable scientists to describe the entire structure.
  • Molecular biologists have struggled for more than a decade to solve this problem. Knowing the molecular structure of this protease, which is a key element in viral duplication, will be an important tool in the development of anti-retroviral therapies.

Open Innovation at Roche Diagnostics

  • Other crowd-sourcing successes include the solution, in 60 days, of an assay problem that Roche Diagnostics had been trying unsuccessfully to solve for 15 years!
  • Roche notes that they received more than 100 solutions, and that all of the major approaches that the company had tried over 15 years were included in the solutions that did not win.

Changemakers & Robert Woods Johnson Foundation

NIH has  been using crowdsourcing for decades
Expert peer review is a 'pre-internet' example of crowd-sourcing!

  • All NIH grants are based upon the process.
  • Cultivates a community of experts.
  • Innovation is rewarded by fostering ongoing support to promising science.
  • Transparency and open communications are hallmarks of the funding process.

Harvard Catalyst

  • A Harvard-based crowdsource project seeks diabetes information with the end goal of curing Type I diabetes.
  • The study awards prizes ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 to those who contribute winning answers.
  • This ideation approach can be added to a distinguished list of sites like PatientsLikeMe.com and CureTogether.com that use crowdsourcing techniques.

Potato chips and healthy sales figures

  • Outside healthcare, Walkers, a British snack food manufacturer, found a way to use crowdsourcing to breathe new life into the brand, resulting in year-on-year sales gains of 14%.
  • Idea Connection: Crowdsourced Potato Chips