InnoCentive Research Prizes Awarded!

"Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds." - Alexander Graham Bell

In 2011 FPWR launched the first PWS Research Challenge!  Using the InnoCentive crowdsourcing platform, we asked “solvers” from all disciplines to identify insights into the mechanisms of hyperphagia in PWS and provide possible interventions and treatments.  InnoCentive is the premier open innovation and crowdsourcing pioneer, enabling organizations to solve their key problems. What exactly is crowdsourcing?  It is the act of sourcing tasks traditionally performed by specific individuals to a group of people or community (crowd) through an open call.  Think of it as a marketplace, were a problem or issue is posted and people are encouraged to submit their solutions to try to solve the problem.  The person(s) who solves the problem is then awarded a prize.  Our hope was that this crowdsourcing approach will provide new insight into PWS by allowing people from multiple disciplines and with different perspectives to look at PWS.  Raising awareness of PWS was another perk of this approach. The PWS Challenge was featured on the InnoCentive Website and was also appeared in online editions of the Economist and Popular Science. As expected, we received a wide variety of solutions representing many different ways of thinking about and addressing hyperphagia in PWS.  Twenty-nine unique submissions were narrowed down to 4 winning ideas.  We chose these solutions as the winners specifically because they challenged us to think of hyperphagia in PWS in new ways, but all of the solutions were valuable and we are really grateful for the new ideas they've brought us. Our first place submission suggested “Novel insights on possible mechanisms and treatments for hyperphagia and resulting obesity in Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS).”  This "systems biology" approach used advanced bioinformatic programs to demonstrate new relationships and connections between PWS-relevant genes, proteins and drugs. The runner-up submissions included:

  • Utilizing deep brain stimulation to increase satiety and decrease hyperphagia in Prader-Willi syndrome
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome: a Binge Eating Disorder
  • Mesolimbic Dopamine Signaling in Prader-Willi Syndrome Associated Hyperphagia.

Check out Theresa and Shawn announcing the winners at the 2012 FPWR Canada Research Conference. We look forward to interacting with the authors of the winning submissions for further dialog to help extend their winning solutions.  Perhaps these proposals will lead to new research, new researchers and maybe even a solution to hyperphagia! Steve Jobs said “you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”  We were pleased to have this opportunity to pull together some new and innovative "dots", with the goal of one day connecting them in a way that will eliminate the challenges of PWS for all who are affected.  All we can do is believe and take action. Finally, we are extremely grateful to the "Public Good Program" for providing the InnoCentive Team's expertise and guidance through the process at no cost to FPWR.  They were fabulous to work with!

Topics: Research

Theresa Strong


Theresa V. Strong, Ph.D., received a B.S. from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. in Medical Genetics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). After postdoctoral studies with Dr. Francis Collins at the University of Michigan, she joined the UAB faculty, leading a research lab focused on gene therapy for cancer and directing UAB’s Vector Production Facility. Theresa is one of the founding members of FPWR and has directed FPWR’s grant program since its inception. In 2016, she transitioned to a full-time position as Director of Research Programs at FPWR. She remains an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Genetics at UAB. She and her husband Jim have four children, including a son with PWS.