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White House Highlights Innovative Arthritis Research

ATLANTA, June 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will highlight innovative arthritis research at an event today honoring "Open Science Champions of Change." Dr. Stephen Friend, president of Sage Bionetworks, will be recognized at the event for innovative research projects such as the Rheumatoid Arthritis Responder Challenge, a collaborative genomics study that will use open scientific data and publications to accelerate progress in rheumatoid arthritis, sponsored in part by the Arthritis Foundation.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects 1.5 million Americans and can lead to long-term joint damage. Currently, up to one-third of rheumatoid arthritis patients do not respond to rheumatoid arthritis treatment after a standard course of therapy and there are no existing genetic predictors to identify who will and will not respond to a particular therapy.

"Innovative research collaborations such as the Rheumatoid Arthritis Responder Challenge will help predict the best therapy as we work toward a goal of personalized medicine for rheumatoid arthritis," said Arthritis Foundation Vice President of Research, John Vernachio, Ph.D. "We are excited about gaining genetic insight from the Challenge and applying those findings to citizen scientists enrolled in an existing  Arthritis Internet Registry."

Expediting Treatments Through Challenges
Challenges have been used successfully in other research fields, and for the past six years the DREAM project has organized a series of Challenges in systems biology intended to advance the field by organizing multiple groups to attack the same problems from different angles. Earlier this year, DREAM and Sage Bionetworks merged their efforts to work on future DREAM Challenges together and take them to a new level of operation and impact.

"The Rheumatoid Arthritis Responder Challenge represents a unique interaction among an international team of researchers from academics and industry who share a common goal: improve the lives of patients with a debilitating form of arthritis," said Director of Genetics & Genomics at Brigham & Women's Hospital, Dr. Robert Plenge. "We will make complex genetic and genomic datasets available to researchers from across the world through a unique computing platform developed by Sage Bionetworks.  By leveraging the power of the crowd, we hope to solve a vexing clinical problem about predicting which patients will respond to an expensive and potentially dangerous medication, anti-TNF therapy."

A unique component of the Rheumatoid Arthritis Responder Challenge is the diversity of participation across a number of groups from academic institutions, private foundations and for-profit companies.  The funding and support to carry out the Challenge and to support Sage Bionetworks' cloud-based data analysis platform (Synapse) where the Challenge will take place, derives from the Arthritis Foundation and several major pharmaceutical companies.  Additional support for the Challenge comes from data and samples contributed by the Consortium of Rheumatology Researchers of North America, Inc. (CORRONA), the National Institutes of Health Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN), the Broad Institute, and academic researchers from across the world.  For example, CORRONA is providing unique clinical samples from a prospective study of rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with anti-TNF therapy, and the PGRN is supporting the genotyping of these samples for the Challenge itself.

"The Consortium of Rheumatology Researchers of North America (CORRONA) is very pleased to contribute the validation cohort of rheumatoid arthritis patient samples who were prescribed anti-TNF biologic drugs," said Jeff Greenberg, MD, MPH, Chief Scientific Officer of CORRONA.  "The challenges of pharmacogenetic research and personalized medicine for rheumatoid arthritis patients require innovative and highly collaborative research teams to improve patient outcomes."

The Challenge will open this fall and complete in the winter of 2014. The first phase of the challenge is a discovery phase in which teams use the data to build genetic predictors of response to anti-TNF therapy. The second phase is a validation assessment in which challenge participants' predictive models will be tested against a newly generated rheumatoid arthritis dataset (from CORRONA). The team with the most highly predictive model in the validation assessment will be deemed the "winner."  The results of the challenge will be published in a highlighted article as a collaborative effort with Nature Genetics.  The winning classifier will potentially be used to drive a prospective clinical trial with materials and data collected through the Arthritis Internet Registry.

"Sage Bionetworks/DREAM are delighted to be in lockstep on this challenge with the Arthritis Foundation," said President of Sage Bionetworks, Dr. Stephen Friend.  "Their support for a prospective clinical trial to evaluate the winning model highlights the Arthritis Foundation's leading role in the development of impactful, precision medicine approaches to health."

To help researchers find more effective treatments and potentially a cure for arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation is calling on people living with rheumatic conditions to join the Arthritis Internet Registry. For more information and to register, click here.

About the Arthritis Foundation
Striking one in every five adults and 300,000 children, arthritis is the nation's leading cause of disability.  The Arthritis Foundation ( is committed to raising awareness and reducing the unacceptable impact of this serious and painful disease, which can severely damage joints and rob people of living life to its fullest.  The Foundation funds life-changing research that has restored mobility in patients for more than six decades; fights for health care policies that improve the lives of the millions who live with arthritis; and partners with families to provide empowering programs and information.

About Sage Bionetworks
Sage Bionetworks is a nonprofit biomedical research organization, founded in 2009, with a vision to promote innovations in personalized medicine by enabling a community-based approach to scientific inquiries and discoveries.  Sage Bionetworks Bionetworks strives to activate patients and to incentivize scientists, funders and researchers to work in fundamentally new ways in order to shape research, accelerate access to knowledge and transform human health. 

Sage Bionetworks is located on the campus of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington and is supported through a portfolio of philanthropic donations, competitive research grants, and commercial partnerships. More information is available at http://Sage

SOURCE Arthritis Foundation
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