And then there were three. Astellas Pharma narrowed the field of creative cancer care ideas in its annual C3 contest to three finalists who will pitch in front of an expert panel of judges in Kuala Lumpur next week.
It’s Astellas Oncology’s third year running the C3 Prize to crowdsource innovative nontreatment cancer care ideas. They received more than 70 entries from 20 countries for this year's prize.
Previous years’ contests have each featured a celebrity coach and judge from the big idea pitch show Shark Tank, but this year Astellas has a new celebrity partner—Bill Rancic, a reality star, entrepreneur and first-season winner of The Apprentice. Rancic and his wife, TV personality Giuliana Rancic, started getting involved in cancer initiatives after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2011.
This year's contest also differs in that it's focused on cancer care in low- and middle-income countries rather than rich countries like the U.S. Those countries "bear a disproportionate burden of the global cancer epidemic," Mark Reisenauer, senior vice president, oncology business unit at Astellas, said in an email interview. "Low- and middle-income countries face major challenges in the four key components to cancer control: cancer prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment. But despite this, a mere 5% of all resources devoted to cancer care globally are allotted to low- and middle-income countries."
The finalists for 2018 are a pediatric wearable device to monitor temperature and detect infections; a digital audio series proposed for Nigeria using local actors to address myths in breast cancer treatment; and an advanced microscope that can provide diagnostic-quality images directly from fresh or fixed tissue.
The grand prize winner this year will get $50,000, while both runners-up receive $25,000 grants. All three finalists win a one-year membership to the Chicago-based healthcare innovation community called Matter to help bring their projects to life.
A panel of experts, including Rancic and Reisenauer, will judge the contest, but attendees will also get a say with live voting at the C3 finals event.
Astellas Oncology's treatments include prostate cancer drug Xtandi, which the company co-markets with Pfizer, and Tarceva, a non-small cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancer medication it makes in partnership with Roche's Genentech.
When asked why Astellas runs the contest and will continue to do so, Reisenauer said, “Despite advances in treatment, patients and caregivers still face obstacles to receiving or providing optimal care—outside of clinical treatment. The Astellas Oncology C3 Prize fosters the same innovative approach that we have internally and gives people with a passion for healthcare innovation an opportunity to pursue ideas and solutions that may make a difference in the lives of people impacted by cancer.”