A serendipitous result of the vast amount of information now available on the Internet is that it can be sifted and used by organizations for the betterment of the general population. While some of the health conscious may surf for nutritional data or new exercises, the possible impact of widespread access to this type of information extends far beyond, to diseases that are mysterious, life altering, and—thus far—incurable.
Multiple Sclerosis, a disease afflicting more than two million people worldwide, has no known cause, no known cure, and no centralized organization to accumulate information and resources. The Boston Cure Project (BCP) for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has taken an aggressive role in combating all of the above by "developing a centralized repository of literature," according to Hollie Schmidt, VP of scientific operations at BCP. The organization's CEO, Art Mellor, took an active interest in MS after his own diagnosis in 2000; "Art wanted to figure out how close we are to a cure," says Schmidt, "and a part of the problem was a lack of a centralized organization."
BCP began to build a series of documents called "CureMap," which seeks to answer three questions: What do we currently know about MS? What is most important to do next? How do we work best with the scientific community? Amassing information for CureMap required a great deal of searching; one veteran BCP volunteer, Krista Milne, approached Mellor with an idea for a way to make the process more productive. As it happens, Milne is president of MOJO Marketing, the PR agency of record for TripleHop Technologies—a context-sensitive search company. She believed that TripleHop's MatchPoint technology would be a good fit for the CureMap project, scheduled for full public release in late May.
"Boston Cure didn't have a request for proposal out on the street that they needed a new search tool," explains Milne. But according to Schmidt, "it seemed like a good fit right off the bat" and so TripleHop donated the software to aid in the CureMap effort. Renaud Laplanche, CEO of TripleHop, says that the feature set MatchPoint offers fit well with the needs of the organization because MatchPoint is designed to facilitate both information discovery and information retrieval. Queries can be sent to multiple search engines then information can be culled and indexed into databases. Once the databases have been created, MatchPoint can also be used to retrieve information for research purposes.
TripleHop generally works with much larger organizations and BCP is the first non-profit that has implemented MatchPoint, but the company saw this as an opportunity for their search technology to have an impact beyond the scope of an enterprise implementation as CureMap has been developed for use by the entire MS community, including individuals with MS, their families, researchers, clinicians, and pharmaceutical companies.
Mellor, Schmidt, and other members of the BCP team are a tech-savvy group of MIT-trained engineers. "Boston Cure is not leery of new technology," says Schmidt, "we are always eager to find new technology to help us be more effective and efficient." They are hoping that by organizing and combining their efforts, more can be understood about MS and that information can be put to use both by afflicted individuals and the pharmaceutical companies and researchers who will one day discover a cure and methods for preventing MS in the first place.