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Ascensia Diabetes Challenge finalists pitch their pioneering ideas

By Editor
24th May 2018
Case studies, Pharmaceutical

The six finalists in a global type 2 diabetes innovation competition have recently pitched their pioneering ideas and are waiting to hear who has won.

The Ascensia Diabetes Challenge was launched to seek out digital solutions from start-up companies and entrepreneurs that could facilitate better type 2 diabetes management and improve the lives of people with the condition.

The shortlisted entries, chosen from 116 submissions, were asked to attend an event at the Ascensia Global Headquarters in Basel in April where they all introduced their ideas, marking the start of the judging process.


Shane Reiser, an expert in the field of open innovation and host for the event on 19 and 20 April, said: “Ascensia is hosting this challenge at a critical time in the company’s journey. Culturally, this challenge is sending a message to Ascensia’s customers and partners, as well as its own employees, that the company is patient-focused, dedicated to innovation, and aware of the increasing rate of change in the diabetes industry.

“Moreover, their new focus on interconnected diabetes management comes at a time when mounting pressure in the smart device space is at an all-time high, coming not just from Ascensia’s traditional competitors, but now from new players like Apple.”

We have been delighted by the quality and variety of the submissions we have received, which offer digital solutions that could revolutionise a number of aspects of type 2 diabetes management

Each finalist was asked to present their innovative idea, in a bid to receive a share of the winning cash prize fund of 200,000 Euros. The winner will be announced be announced at the American Diabetes Association 78th Scientific Sessions at the end of June.

The entries that reached the finalists stage were Whisk by Foodient (UK), GlycoLeap by Holmusk (Singapore), QStream (USA), My Diabetes Coach byMacadamian (Canada), Path Feel by Walk with Path (UK) and xBird (Germany).

Michael Kloss, CEO of Ascensia Diabetes Care, said: “We have been delighted by the quality and variety of the submissions we have received, which offer digital solutions that could revolutionise a number of aspects of type 2 diabetes management.”

Shane said there were several entrants that caught his eye, including a product called Whisk made by Foodient, a company that specialises in building integrated, smarter, and more meaningful digital food experiences.

Artificial intelligence

Whisk is an artificial intelligence powered Digital Dietician that connects people to the world’s leading grocery retailers. It is being developed to help type 2 diabetes patients easily find food they love and is nutritionally tailored, so that they can make sustainable behaviour change.

Shane said: “You can see how a recipe recommendation engine could be made available to people with type 2 diabetes and be very beneficial for them. Whisk’s approach would make it super simple for people to use on a daily basis, which impressed me.”

He also singled out the digital health programme GlycoLeap, produced by Holmusk. It has been designed to provide users with an easier way to lose weight and lower A1c. It combines expert human coaching with mobile technology to empower people with type 2 diabetes live a healthier life. GlycoLeap is powered by a scalable, engaging and effective technology platform for data-driven, personalised health coaching.

Shane said the “mix of data science and coaching from real humans” is the “right way to drive the type of lasting behavioural change needed to treat or manage any health condition”.

Qstream makes software that uses science, data, and mobile technology to prompt meaningful behavior change.

Company founder and Harvard Medical School associate professor, Dr B Price Kerfoot, presented the results of a clinical study that found that people who were randomly assigned to use Qstream had significantly greater reductions in HbA1c levels.

Dr Kerfoot said: “We’ve created a diabetes-specific Qstream challenge to provide self-management, education, and reinforcement using push notifications and game mechanics to generate strong patient engagement and improve outcomes.

“A deployment of Qstream’s mobile solution, designed to teach patients about diabetes self-management, delivered reductions in blood glucose comparable to starting a new diabetes medication.”

Shane’s company, Your Ideas are Terrible, was founded to bring lean thinking to corporate innovation. Shane was asked to become involved in the awards because of his background in innovation programmes across multiple industries. He currently works with Coca-Cola to run a specific programme that helps a consortium of large corporations collaborate with early stage technology companies. He also a lot of experience in running experiential events focused on both internal and external innovation methods, that solve specific unmet business challenges and build action-based internal innovation culture.

Having worked within the field of innovation for many years, he explains why he was so keen to become involved with the Ascensia Diabetes Challenge.

He said: “What sets this challenge apart from similar efforts in the industry is how laser-focused Ascensia is on the patient experience. In every conversation I witnessed between a finalist and an internal stakeholder at Ascensia, the priority was always to first understand how the technology helped people with diabetes.

“That, in my opinion, is the single most important philosophy that Ascensia could have adopted to set themselves up for inevitable success. Only when that was crystal clear did the commercialisation conversations start. This approach also allows Ascensia to look wide at solutions that could support their existing product lines or move the company into entirely new spaces.”

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