Campus & Community

Finalists in health, science challenge

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Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge fosters solutions that support affordable global health care

Harvard University today announced the selection of eight finalist teams in the inaugural Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge.

Sponsored by deans from across the University and hosted by the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab), the Challenge recognizes that the delivery of affordable health care to people around the globe is one of the world’s most pressing problems.

“Access to affordable health is an issue that crosses global and institutional boundaries and we need to collaborate to tackle these problems,” said Jeffrey Flier, dean of Harvard Medical School and co-chair of the challenge.  “By bringing together a variety of disciplines and perspectives, and capturing the ingenuity of those impassioned by the field, we can develop solutions that will save lives.”

The challenge invited Harvard students and postdoctoral fellows from across Harvard’s Schools to develop entrepreneurial solutions that facilitate the delivery of affordable health care and the development of new and effective therapies for global populations.

“To address the global health issues facing the world today, entrepreneurs, scientists, and health professionals must all work together to find innovative solutions that lead to better outcomes,” said Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School and co-chair of the challenge.

The challenge hosted a mixer and workshops where potential applicants met other students interested in developing global health solutions. Finalists were selected from a pool of 54 applications by a judging panel that included Harvard faculty, alumni, and industry experts.

“It was great to see students from across 11 schools of Harvard interested and actively working to address global health issues,” said William Sahlman, co-chair of the judging committee. “Many of the applications were made up of two or more Schools and the caliber of ideas was high — making the selection of finalists difficult.”

Teams were selected from one of four challenge topic categories, with more finalists in the categories of redesign and health delivery and changing behavior, based on the volume of submissions in those fields. The finalist teams and their proposals are:

In the redesign of health delivery category

CareSolver focuses on improving the health and wellness of the elderly by helping family members and informal caregivers provide better, more coordinated care to older loved ones living at home.

TraumaLink is tackling the lack of a formal pre-hospital system in Bangladesh by connecting users to first-aid and ambulance services.

Broadleaf HEA is integrating care for children with mental health needs into a model for comprehensive school health in rural India.

In the changing behavior category

Priming Pregnancy wants to prevent obesity before it starts.  Research has shown that prenatal factors such as blood glucose levels are critical to a child’s future healthy weight, and this Web application helps women have the best pregnancy possible.

Healthy Motives aims to address unhealthy behaviors by building an integrated Web application that incorporates behavioral feedback, social support, and financial incentives to improve long-term health habits.

Sqweeki’s mission is to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and significantly improve individual and public health by providing a simple, safe, and secure mobile application that lets individuals share their sexual health information.

In the computation and data analysis in health category

Mobile Urban Sensors is developing a means of data collection, analysis, and dissemination of urban environmental conditions that will better inform discussions about public health.

In the stem cell biology and regenerative medicine category

MatriTarg Laboratories is characterizing the genetic changes in cells implicated in progressive diseases throughout the body to ultimately facilitate the identification of novel therapeutic targets.

The finalists will receive $5,000 to continue developing their projects before they present their ideas to the local and Harvard communities at Demo Day on May 22. The grand prize winner and runners-up will be announced in late May, when they will take home a share of the $75,000 purse. Teams will also continue their residency at the i-lab, with dedicated workspace, mentoring, and access to expert resources throughout the summer.

The Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge is one of three challenges hosted by the i-lab and designed to strengthen the entrepreneurial community at Harvard and to foster cross-School collaboration. Finalists for the President’s Challenge for social entrepreneurship were announced March 25 and finalists for the Deans’ Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge were announced April 1.