"Creative Thinking" Earns ALS Biomarker Competition Prize

By Lois Baker

Release Date: May 29, 2007 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A University at Buffalo physician has won one of five monetary awards in an international competition for the best ideas for discovering biomarkers for Lou Gehrig's disease.

Prize4Life, a nonprofit organization founded to accelerate research in Lou Gehrig's disease, known also as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), announced the $1 million prize competition last November.

ALS is a fatal condition that for decades has stymied those searching for a treatment or cure. The Biomarker Prize sponsored by Prize4Life is divided into two tracks – theoretical findings and real outcomes. The prize will be divided among scientists who solve the most critical scientific problems preventing the discovery of an effective ALS treatment.

Harvey Arbesman, M.D, took part in the first track, in which 45 entrants submitted theoretical papers describing how they would develop an ALS biomarker. Arbesman is a clinical assistant professor of dermatology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and clinical assistant professor of social and preventive medicine in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions.

The five winners in the first track each received a $15,000 cash prize. The remaining $925,000 will be rewarded to the discoverer or discoverers of the first proven ALS biomarker. The competition will run until Nov. 30, 2008.

Arbesman maintains an active dermatology practice and is founder and vice president of ArbesIdeas, a health-care-related research and development company. One of the company's goals is to promote creative thinking in developing medical hypotheses.

"You need new hypotheses to account for different anomalies to existing theories," Arbesman notes. "Or sometimes you need a new theory to generate a new therapy or simply to understand disease in general. Such hypotheses are what really create leaps in our understanding of critical problems."

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. The School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the School of Public Health and Health Professions are two of the five schools that constitute UB's Academic Health Center.