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Seeking Other Perspectives to Tease Out New Innovations

Posted on November 22nd, 2017 by in Pharma R&D


On October 24, Astellas Oncology announced the five finalists in its C3 Prize competition, chosen from over 160 entrants who submitted their ideas on how to improve the cancer care experience through non-medicine innovations. Kevin Bambury developed an interactive app for oncology professionals; Howard Isenstein created an app for patients; Cory Kidd developed a platform featuring an AI-powered companion robot; Hernâni Oliveira also created an app, for both pediatric cancer patients and their parents; and Charlotte Vander Stichele is developing a decision-support tool with information on treatment impacts and more.

The five innovators subsequently presented their ideas live in Mexico City at the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) World Cancer Leaders’ Summit, vying for a $50,000 grand prize. Hernâni Oliveira of Porto, Portugal came out on top with her two-part app, called the HOPE PROJECT, which helps users deal with issues related to medication adherence and the sedentary lifestyle that children with cancer often must live.

One of the interesting things about the C3 Prize, now in its second year, is that it shows how a company like Astellas is willing to think outside the box in its search for and promotion of innovation. In a recent FiercePharma article, Beth Snyder Bulik quoted Astellas’ senior VP of the oncology business unit, Mark Reisenauer, as saying that the competition’s entrants are demonstrating that they see pain points that the company may not itself be familiar with: “They become evident in the types of ideas that come forward that this must be an issue because you’re seeing more ideas around it. And more ideas about how to solve for it. That’s all coming from a perspective that we as a company might not have gone down that path.”

Could pharmaceutical R&D teams draw some inspiration from this? Granted, the Astellas’ prize specifically focuses on “non-medicine” treatments, which opens it up to a wider range of individuals. After all, there aren’t many part-time inventors doing drug discovery and development in their garages. Nonetheless, there is surely something to be learned from Astellas’ notion that the people most directly affected have unique insights to offer. How might pharmaceutical companies find ways to go down paths that they wouldn’t normally think of from inside the research lab?

Perhaps starting a prize that invites enterprising scientists or small biotechnology start-ups to pitch ideas would be a possibility. The winner could then work with the well-resourced pharma company to develop their idea further. Following directly in Astellas’ footsteps by inviting non-medicine ideas could also be beneficial to some pharmaceutical companies. Even though the C3 Prize innovations are focused on offering informational and technical support to patients, not developing drugs, pharma R&D departments may be able to draw some inspiration from innovations developed by people looking at disease from the patient/caregiver perspective.

Promoting and generating innovation from every angle imaginable is critical for the industry to continue to thrive. Elsevier recently created The Hive as a way of both supporting and spotlighting the work of biotech start-ups that are developing breakthroughs. Elsevier is also the sponsor of the ICIS Innovation Awards (read more about the 2017 winners, who were recently announced, here), which recognize the year’s most compelling achievements from innovative chemical companies and scientists. We are always working on new ways to support advancement in science, and we encourage all companies to be thinking of creative strategies for encouraging innovation.

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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