Lilly's first crowdsourced digital health contest seeks solutions for IBD

Eli Lilly is the latest pharma looking for bright ideas in digital health, this time to help people living with IBD. (Peshkova/iStock)

Eli Lilly is firing up its first innovation challenge for digital health, seeking technology solutions for inflammatory bowel disease. Lilly’s contest will accept entries through midnight on Sept. 30.

Five finalists will be selected in November and a winner announced before the end of the year. The top prize is $50,000, along with the potential to co-develop the idea with Lilly.

Divakar Ramakrishnan, Lilly’s chief digital officer, said the company chose IBD not only because it’s a therapeutic focus area for Lilly, but also because IBD significantly impacts the quality of life and digital solutions could help many people. An estimated 3 million Americans are diagnosed with IBD yearly, with most diagnosed in their 20s and 30s, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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“Our goal for this first challenge is to nurture and extend ideas that may positively impact people with IBD, caregivers or health care professionals supporting people with IBD,” he said in an email. “… We’re open to any idea that can impact the future and to help to improve care within IBD, leveraging digital technologies.”

Entries are open to U.S.-based teams and individuals and Lilly expects to receive a wide range of entries from start-ups, researchers and students, people with IBD and their caregivers, patient advocates, healthcare professionals and entrepreneurs.

Lilly is the latest to join the trend of pharmas adopting innovation challenges in digital to look outside their own labs and IP for innovative solutions. In the past year, Novo Nordisk, Sandoz, Astellas, Merck, Celgene and J&J launched or continued innovation challenge contests in therapeutic areas including cancer, diabetes, public health and multiple sclerosis.

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A study last year from Luminary Labs found that more than three-fourths (77%) of pharma and healthcare companies it surveyed were working to develop competency around open innovation programs. They’re using open innovation most often to stimulate concept generation (68%), position the company as innovative (64%) and develop new solutions (64%), the study found.