New game will only take around 5 minutes to play/contribute to

Charity Cancer Research UK (CRUK) is spearheading a project to develop a mobile app that will use human smarts in a game format to speed up cancer research.  The project has some high profile support., Inc. (AMZN), Facebook, Inc. (FB), and Google Inc. (GOOG) employees are all taking part in the effort to develop the app.

Over 40 computer programmers, gamers, graphic designers and other specialists will take part in the weekend "GameJam" to develop the app.  The event is being held in London, UK from Mar. 1-3.  The goal is to have a graphical interface to allow users to aid in accelerating the translation of genetic data.

Cancer Research UK employee Carlos Caldas, who works at the Cambridge Institute, comments, "We're making great progress in understanding the genetic reasons cancer develops. But the clues to why some drugs will work and some won't are held in data which need to be analyzed by the human eye - and this could take years.  By harnessing the collective power of citizen scientists we'll accelerate the discovery of new ways to diagnose and treat cancer much more precisely."

The World Health Organization's (WHO) cancer agency IARC estimates that by 2030 cancer rates are expected to soar 75 percent.  Currently over 7.5 million people die each year from cancer.

Cancer UK
Cancer Research UK is spearheading the app effort. [Image Source: Guardian]

It sounds unbelievable, but humans are still often able to beat machines in manually identifying patterns in cancer genes among patients.  Describes CRUK, "The human eye can detect subtle changes that machines are not programmed to look for - leading to serendipitous discoveries providing clues to the causes and drivers of the disease.  With the collective power of hundreds of thousands of people across the globe helping our scientists to analyze this data we could drastically speed up research."

Philip Su, engineering site director of Facebook London, is excited to be onboard the effort.  He enthuses, "[The best way to fight cancer] is to bring smart people together to 'hack' a solution.  That approach is just as valid in the field of life sciences as it is in software engineering."

The app will be released in mid-2013.

Once volunteers discover genes associated with specific cancers, new drugs will be able to be developed to target the affected DNA or proten it generates.  Past projecets like Folding@home, the Higgs boson hunt, and Captcha translation have been highly successful, so there's high hopes for this volunteer effort.

Source: CRUK

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