Got tech ideas for diabetes? Novo wants you for its crowdsourcing challenge

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Novo Nordisk opens its doors, and mentoring expertise, to new tech ideas and hypotheses in diabetes. (Novo Nordisk)

Novo Nordisk is firing up its first innovation challenge, looking for tech solutions in diabetes. The diabetes giant opened up the crowdsourcing contest last month to digital solutions that can help people living with diabetes. It will close submissions Oct. 26.

Collaborating with Chicago-based incubator and innovation hub Matter, Novo is offering $25,000 plus a one-year opportunity to co-develop the winning ideas and a one-year membership to Matter and its program to each of three to five semi-finalists.

A larger group of semifinalists will present their ideas to a panel of judges at a Demo Day on Dec. 5. The winners will then move into a 12-week accelerator program to further develop their concepts, supported by Matter and Novo Nordisk.

“We think it’s really important to leverage expertise from different areas, different points of view, different thoughts and different ... capabilities, because we don’t all do everything well,” said Amy West, the senior director overseeing patient marketing and digital health at Novo Nordisk.

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The contest is purposefully broad, inviting anyone with a technological idea or hypothesis in diabetes. That's partly because Novo Nordisk wants to learn from this first innovation-challenge experience. But West said Novo wants the tech solutions to marry with Novo’s core treatment and device offerings.

While innovation challenges have been growing in the pharma industry, it's still early for Novo Nordisk’s first try at leveraging third-party expertise, West said.

“As long as people are looking to get their idea or their hypothesis off the ground, there is going to be a lot of interest and hunger for these types of programs,” she said. The rise of these challenges tracks with the technology disruption hitting the industry and the exponential changes it's driving, she added.

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Novo plans to make the diabetes challenge an ongoing one and may even expand to other chronic disease areas the company focuses on.

“We’re excited to see what we can do with diabetes as a chronic disease itself, but who knows what the future holds,” West said.

Novo Nordisk is a diabetes stronghold, with its newest launch the long-acting GLP-1 Ozempic, which market intelligence firm Evaluate estimates will have sales of more than $2.2 billion by 2022. Novo’s blockbuster Victoza, a shorter acting version of the drug, has already passed the $2 billion mark.