In 2012, the Sandler-Kenner Foundation partnered with InnoCentive, the crowdsourcing pioneer that enables organizations to solve problems by connecting them to diverse sources of innovation, creating the world’s largest independent problem solving marketplace. Inspired by our mission, InnoCentive (www.innoCentive.com) posted our challenge that sought diagnostic tools for identification of adenocarcinoma and neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer at early stages of development. Within minutes of listing, the Foundation received additional offers of pro bono collaboration from leading platforms that included Nature, The Economist, and Popular Science.

Sixty-one researchers from 17 countries provided submissions that were reviewed and ranked by members of our Scientific Advisory Board. The rankings were based on the stated goal of developing tools for early detection of pancreatic cancer that are highly sensitive, cost effective, and easily implemented by general practitioners. The following four exciting ideas were selected:

  • Challenge Winner: Dr. Sana Mumtaz and Dr. Ranjan Nanda, New Delhi, India.
    This research team used their expertise and knowledge gained through studies on the development of a noninvasive early diagnostic method for tuberculosis, as well as a study they are conducting for volatile organic compounds for a breath test. Dr. Mumtaz and Dr. Nanda outlined two possible methods utilizing urine metabolite and miRNA markers to detect pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
  • Dr. Gerald Nora, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
    Dr. Nora is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh researching deep brain stimulation. His interest in the nanotechological side of biomedical research was reflected in his submission, which outlined a method to monitor trace volatile organic
    compounds (VOCs) in breath samples in order to identify a metabolic signature of pancreatic cancer.
  • Dr. Uri Gophna, Tel Aviv, Israel.
    Dr. Gophna is associate professor in molecular microbiology at Tel Aviv University. His interest is in the modified microbial communities of the human body that are observed in various diseases, with a current focus in colon cancer. From this work, he hypothesized that there may be a unique bacterial signature to pancreatic cancer, which may possibly be identified through sensing microbial changes in feces.
  • Raz Lupa, Kiriat Ono, Israel.
    Mr. Lupa is a 21 year-old electronics student working on a degree in nanotechnologies. His submission involved the use of 3D high-resolution non-invasive ultrasound. Mr. Lupa indicated that his inspiration to participate in this challenge was his grandmother, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.