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The Roche Canada Artificial Intelligence Centre of Excellence (AI CoE) is excited to collaborate with Answer ALS and EverythingALS to launch an initiative called the End ALS Challenge, with the support of ALS Society of Canada, Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) and NetraMark Corp.

The goal is to surface insights through an open data competition that connects the global AI and neuroscience communities to better understand the overall biology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and improve diagnosis and drug discovery for ALS patients.

The End ALS Challenge, administered by Kaggle, an online community of data scientists and machine learners, presents 150 rich datasets contributed from 1,000 Answer ALS patient research participants, which were collected through eight clinics and dozens of participating partners. Answer ALS is the largest and most comprehensive ALS research project in history, producing more combined ALS clinical and biological data than has ever been amassed, while openly sharing with the global research community.

The Challenge asks participants to model solutions to key research questions that were developed by neurologists, researchers, and patient communities. An interdisciplinary global expert panel will review the solutions, and participants could have the opportunity to join multi-stakeholder roundtables to share their work and potentially identify further solutions. The outputs created by the scientific community will be shared with the patient community through an open and continuous feedback loop to help translate rare disease research into positive disease-modifying outcomes for patients faster.

“We believe that sharing knowledge and multi-disciplinary expertise through open science can improve public and private collaboration and contribute to a learning health system that better informs patient care,” said Fanny Sie, strategic healthcare partner, AI and Digital Health, Roche Canada.

“As the first project launched through the AI CoE, the End ALS Challenge will facilitate data access for all stakeholders to generate meaningful data-driven insights and accelerate improvements for patients with a neurodegenerative disease through innovative AI and machine learning techniques.”

Indu Navar (pictured), CEO of EverythingALS and Answer ALS Advisory Board Collaborator, said, “As a patient-oriented organization, we at EverythingALS have experienced caring for our loved ones with ALS first-hand and know why it’s critical we end the disease. Our mission is to discover and deploy initiatives that focus on new ways to diagnose and treat neurological disorders at the intersection of computation and brain science with a focus on ALS. We are excited to partner with the Roche Canada AI Centre of Excellence and want to encourage other partners to join this challenge for improving breakthroughs in ALS and brain science.”

ALS is one of more than 7,000 identified rare diseases and approximately 225,000 people live with the progressive and debilitating disease across the globe, with an expected increase of 69 per cent by 2040. In Canada, there are about 2,500 – 3,000 adults who live with the disease.

Managing ALS comes with a number of challenges and places a significant burden on individuals living with the disease, their families, and society as a whole. Similar to other rare diseases, ALS is also difficult to diagnose and treat due to differences in its symptoms, rate of progression, and severity. Real world data, such as the AnswerALS data sets, has the potential to shed light on these challenges to better understand disease mechanisms, identify gaps in diagnosis and treatment for improved disease management, and potentially help uncover life-changing medicines.

“Enlisting data scientists and machine learning experts to gain new insights into ALS is a critical and exciting step towards gaining a better understanding of the disease,” said Dr. David Taylor, VP research at the ALS Society of Canada. “Using the End ALS Challenge to bring new ideas and perspectives to the field will most certainly enhance the tremendous work being done through Answer ALS.”

Please visit the Kaggle website for more information on the End ALS Challenge.

About the AI CoE
Roche Canada launched the AI Centre of Excellence (AI CoE) in November 2020. It is the first such collaborative to combine the expertise of all three national AI institutes under the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Pan-Canadian AI Strategy – Amii, Mila and the Vector Institute. The AI CoE focuses on advancing digital transformation in health, marrying Roche’s longstanding history of leadership in healthcare, and the institutes’ established track record of excellence in AI research and enabling industry application. Building on the successful model of rapid innovation established by the Roche Data Science Coalition, the AI CoE brings together like-minded public and private organizations with a common mission to collect and share knowledge and data to better inform patient care and health system decision-making. Through cross-sector collaboration, the AI CoE aims to deliver quality digital solutions that optimize and reduce the cost of healthcare delivery and improve health outcomes.

About Roche
Roche is a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people’s lives. The combined strengths of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics under one roof have made Roche the leader in personalized healthcare – a strategy that aims to fit the right treatment to each patient in the best way possible. Roche is the world’s largest biotech company, with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and diseases of the central nervous system. Roche is also a world leader in in-vitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics, and a frontrunner in diabetes management. Founded in 1931, Roche Canada is committed to searching for better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases while making a sustainable contribution to society. The company employs more than 1,800 people across the country through its Pharmaceuticals division in Mississauga, Ontario and Diagnostics, as well as Diabetes Care divisions in Laval, Quebec. For more information, please visit

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