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Feb. 20, 2019


Ben-Gurion University Introduces Novel AI Platform for Monitoring and Predicting ALS Progression

 Prof. Boaz Lerner ENמרובע.jpg

Precision medicine platform assists in finding markers for personalized patient care and improves drug development of neurodegenerative diseases



BEER-SHEVA, Israel – February, 19, 2019 – BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of Ben-Gurion University (BGU), disclosed today a novel artificial intelligence (AI) platform for monitoring and predicting the progression of neurodegenerative diseases for the purpose of identifying markers for personalized patient care and improved drug development. The technology, developed by Prof. Boaz Lerner of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management at BGU, will initially focus on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and later be adapted to various other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.


ALS is a motor neuron disease that almost invariably progresses with time. Research and drug development of this condition are complicated by the heterogeneity of the ALS population leading to variability in symptoms at onset, disease progression rate and pattern, and survival. Reliable patient stratification to homogenous sub-groups and personalized prediction of disease progression rate and pattern of sub-populations, accomplished by the new platform, will improve patient care and quality of life. The platform can also improve the design of clinical trials and the ability to assess the influence of treatment in clinical studies by identifying markers of various patient sub-populations for which treatment is beneficial, thus improving success rate of the studies. 


The platform integrates demographic and clinical data with machine learning and data mining algorithms to produce models that can predict the rate and pattern of ALS progression, identify factors essential for the prediction (such as specific lab tests or vital signs), and stratify homogenous sub-groups from the heterogeneous ALS population. As clinical data are added for each patient, the algorithms, and thus the disease progression prediction, improve.


“One of the big challenges of designing and managing clinical trials for ALS stems from the fact that not only is it a rare disease, but also clinical heterogeneity makes it hard to identify markers correlating with disease severity for enabling successful clinical trials. As a result, after decades of research, there is still no real cure for ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease," explained Prof. Lerner. “The novel platform, which uses machine learning algorithms, will enable not only accurate prediction of disease progression, a crucial ingredient for better clinical trials, but also identification of interrelationships between demographics and measurable factors from physical examinations and patient functionality that will advance clinical research of this devastating condition. In conjunction with further validating the platform for ALS using patient clinic data, we are now extending its ability to other neurodegenerative diseases such Parkinson's and Alzheimer's."


“Now that the algorithms producing the models have been established and evaluated, the funding we recently received from the Israel Innovation Authority will enable researchers to create a system that can be implemented on PCs, the cloud, and cellular applications for personalized monitoring and prediction of ALS progression for the sake of patients, physicians, caregivers, pharmaceutical companies, and health maintenance organizations," stated Itzik Mashiach, Business Development at BGN Technologies. “We are now seeking an industry partner for the further development and commercialization of this innovative patent-pending technology."


About ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. It is characterized by stiff musclesmuscle twitching, and gradually worsening weakness resulting in difficulty to speakswallow, and eventually breath. ALS is a lethal disease with no cure, and in approximately 90% of the cases, its cause is unknown. It affects 2–3 people per 100,000 per year. The disease progresses very rapidly with survivability of 3–5 years on average, with the exception of ~10% who survive for more than 10 years (for example Prof. Stephen Hawking, who recently died 55 years after being diagnosed). There is currently no effective drug and no clear biomarker that allows for early identification of the disease.


About BGN Technologies

BGN Technologies is the technology company of Ben-Gurion University, Israel. The company brings technological innovations from the lab to the market and fosters research collaborations and entrepreneurship among researchers and students. To date, BGN Technologies has established over 100 startup companies in the fields of biotech, hi-tech, and cleantech as well as initiating leading technology hubs, incubators, and accelerators. Over the past decade, it has focused on creating long-term partnerships with multinational corporations such as Deutsche Telekom, Dell-EMC, IBM, PayPal, and Bayer, securing value and growth for Ben-Gurion University as well as for the Negev region. For more information, visit the BGN Technologies website.


Media Contact:

Tsipi Haitovsky

Global Media Liaison,

BGN Technologies

Tel: +972-52-598-9892

E-mail: tsipihai5@gmail.com