Publicis' 'Shark Tank'-style digital tech showdown crowns smart intranasal device as winner

Judges for Publicis Health's innovation challenge await contestant pitches in a digital health tech battle. (Beth Snyder Bulik)

NEW YORK—A celeb-studded panel of judges with TV show hosts Dr. Mehmet Oz and Martha Stewart fired questions at and challenged innovation finalists at the Publicis Health Media Disruption Garage challenge Tuesday.

The "Shark Tank"-style showdown pitted four digital health tech entrepreneurs against each other in a live pitchfest in front of an audience of pharma and healthcare marketers and ad agency insiders.

In the end, Validose, a smart intranasal device with plans to work with pharma to tackle dosing problems in the opioid industry, picked up the $1.5 million prize package of strategy, marketing and media services. Validose’s device can be used by any nasally delivered drug and can “lock out” both non-prescribed users and prescribed patients after allotted doses are taken for the day.

RELATED: Lions Health: China healthcare plus digital tech could equal pharma nirvana

Validose CEO Marcel Botha said the company is working through packaging partners and two opioid drugmakers for anticipated first launches, but it sees all inhaled medicines as an opportunity. Validose initially began working with Johnson & Johnson on the drug esketamine, which is a reformulation of the tranquilizer-turned-street-drug ketamine and is now approved as Spravato, but it pivoted to opioids and their abuse problems as a larger potential market, he said.

The Disruption Garage challenge capped a day of tech talks and panel sessions at Publicis’ first HealthFront for pharma clients and partners, its specialized take on the ad industry’s TV Upfront and digital media NewFront events.

Topics included the emerging challenge and opportunity with tech giants like Amazon, Apple and Google—Google Healthcare’s managing director Ryan Olohan was also a judge for the challenge event; personalized healthcare; data and technology advances like artificial intelligence; connected home devices and 5G in wireless; and the push to patient outcomes accountability.

RELATED: Pharma's got its chief digital officers. Now let's see results: Sanofi exec

“There’s a very big stat that says the total amount of medical knowledge is going to double every 72 days,” Brendan Gallagher, Publicis Health’s chief connected health officer, said. “That sheer amount of data is just not processable by human beings. You can see that market reality reflected in digital health startups,” he added, pointing to the proliferation of new companies promising AI-based preventative solutions.