Guerilla Tea Handed Cancer Research UK Game Brief

Cancer Research UK has hired games and software development agency Guerilla Tea to build the charity’s first mobile game to pinpoint new genetic causes of cancer and so accelerate potential new cures.

The agency will work closely with Cancer Research UK’s scientists to develop a game, working title GeneGame, that anyone with a smartphone and five minutes to spare can play to analyse Cancer Research UK’s gene data. The game will launch in the UK later this year.

Cancer Research UK’s scientists are investigating new ways to treat patients in a more targeted way based on their genetic fingerprint –  but this research produces terabytes upon petabytes of data requiring analysis. Advances in technology help its scientists identify new causes and drivers of cancer, but much of the data must be analysed by the human eye rather than machines – which can take years.

GeneGame is the charity’s second project set up to harness the power of the public to help analyse these colossal amounts of data, with the aim to drastically speed up research.

The first initiative, Cell Slider, launched in October 2012 and allows the public to classify archived breast cancer samples, helping Cancer Research UK scientists to better understand breast cancer risk and response to treatment.

Dundee-based Guerilla Tea creates mobile, handheld and online games. It was appointed by Cancer Research UK with help from Channel 4’s games commissioner, Colin Macdonald. Cancer Research UK said it selected Guerilla Tea because it most closely fulfilled the brief to develop a game format that is both fun to play but simultaneously feeds highly accurate analysis of variations in gene data to Cancer Research UK’s scientists.

Guerilla Tea will consolidate the expertise and formats generated at Cancer Research UK’s GameJam event in March 2013. The event brought together the charity’s leading scientists alongside more than 50 coders, gamers, graphic designers and other specialists from Amazon Web Services, Facebook, Google and games technology academics from City University London and Omnisoft.

“We’re right at the start of a world-first initiative that will result in a game that we hope hundreds of thousands of people across the globe will want to play over and over again and, at the same time, generate robust scientific data analysis,” said Amy Carton, citizen science lead for Cancer Research UK. “Combining complicated cancer research data and gaming technology in this way has never been done before and it’s certainly no mean feat, but we’re working with the best scientific and technology brains in the business, we’re ready for the challenge and believe the results will have global impact and speed up research.”