GE Offers $100M for Crowdsourced Breast Cancer Solutions
CREDIT: Annie Cavanagh, Wellcome Images
When General Electric went to the online crowds to find clean-energy ideas, it ended up making investments worth $140 million and acquired another company. Now, the 130-year-old U.S. corporation wants to repeat its crowdsourcing success with a new challenge that targets $100 million for detecting, diagnosing and treating breast cancer.
Entrepreneurs or companies can pitch their ideas about early detection, accurate diagnosis or treatment of breast cancer through GE's "healthyimagination" website. More than 200,000 American women get diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and an estimated 40,000 will die from it annually. About 1,700 men also are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and an estimated 450 die from it.
"We're really close to turning it into a chronic disease early," said Linda Boff, global director of marketing communications at GE. "We're closing in on what could be the finishing line; that's very, very compelling to us."
Some of the more popular early ideas voted upon by registered users include tiny magnetic particles capable of delivering chemotherapy drugs to their targets, a blood-based genetic test that aims for more personalized cancer treatment , and a cloud-based database for storing genetic information online.
"Candidly, we're 130 years old and we tend to look inwards to figure things out," Boff told InnovationNewsDaily. "With inspiration from our chairman and CEO, we said we'll take a different approach. We don't have all the answers; let's go out to the world on this."
GE may want outside ideas, but the popular vote doesn't automatically choose the winners. A GE judging panel with both in-house and independent experts reviews all the entries to decide who gets a share of the $100 million in investments put up by GE and four venture capital firms.
That differs from GE's earlier "ecoimagination" challenge, where the popular vote decided at least one prize winner. GE has also narrowed the first healthyimagination challenge to focus on breast cancer, whereas the ecoimagination challenge cast a wider net for any clean-energy innovations .
"In ecoimagination, we had all kinds of ideas," Boff explained. "Some were thoughtful ideas, some were wacky ideas, but all were welcome."
GE made eight investments in ecoimagination challenge ideas and spent $140 million out of the $200 million it had originally committed the rest of the money is slated for later investment. The econimagination challenge also allowed GE to discover and acquire Ireland-based FMC-Tech, a company that has developed real-time power-line monitoring technology.
Still, a narrower focus for the breast cancer challenge may have already begun to pay off with very high-quality ideas, Boff said. The contest began Sept. 15 and runs until Nov. 20.
The $100 million breast cancer challenge won't represent the last health initiative for GE and its four venture capital partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Beyers, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Venrock and MPM Capital. They plan more healthyimagination challenges for diseases such as lung cancer down the road.