These contestants will be competing for the Lyfebulb and UnitedHealth Group Innovation Award, as well as monetary prizes.
New York-based Lyfebulb and Minneapolis-based UnitedHealth announced in January that they would be partnering to hold an innovation challenge to reward new IBD-related products and ideas.
Together, they launched the “Empowering Patients: An Innovation Challenge” in April, accepting applications from companies whose founders have direct experience with IBD, whether as a patient or through a family member, and who have developed a product or service addressing an issue faced by IBD patients.
“Lyfebulb is thrilled to partner with UnitedHealth Group to bring such an exceptional group of Patient Entrepreneurs together to find new and more effective ways to address issues encountered by patients with IBD,” Karin Hehenberger, Lyfebulb’s founder and CEO, said in a press release.
After screening and reviewing dozens of applications, the 11 patient entrepreneur finalists are:
- Steve Axelrod of G-Tech Medical, a company developing a wearable medical device to measure gastrointestinal (GI) motility
- Daniel Bernstein of metaMe Health, an online platform providing hypnosis treatment for irritable bowel syndrome
- Cindy Frei of Caleb’s Cooking Company, which provides grain- and gluten-free frozen packaged meals
- Phyllis “PJ” Johnson of eFund Your Health, a crowdfunding platform for alternative medicine
- Vik Kashyap from Toi Labs, a company creating innovative bathroom technology
- Jon Margalit of Complete Start, which provides organic breakfast shakes
- Kishore Pardasan of Buddha Technologies (OstoBuddy), an app to manage ostomy supplies and appliance changes
- Marc Ramer of Regentys, a regenerative medicine company developing treatments for patients with GI disorders
- Scott Sundvor of Nima Labs, which developed a portable food sensor
- Brett Tripp of Tripp Design, a biomedical design company
- Daniel Weinstein of Oshi Health, a company that created an app to track IBD symptoms, predict flare-ups, and provide a platform to get in contact with gastroenterologists
A panel of expert judges will choose the top three winners with the most innovative and effective solutions, awarding $25,000 for first place, $15,000 for second place, and $10,000 for third place, at an event July 24-25 at UnitedHealth’s headquarters in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
According to Hehenberger, the judges will also use their expertise “to help the entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable health care solutions and potential business opportunities.”
The judges are experts from the patient, medical, and business communities. Besides Hehenberger, they include Rebecca Babcock, a patient ambassador at Lyfebulb; Deneen Vojta, MD, executive vice president of research and development at UnitedHealth; Shomit Ghose, general partner at ONSET Ventures, a venture capital company; Gerard Honig, translational research manager at Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation; and Scott Ketover, president and CEO at Minnesota Gastroenterology, P.A.
“Through this innovation challenge, we are learning from patients and caretakers in the IBD community about specific unmet needs in the day-to-day management of IBD,” Vojta said. “Entrepreneurs, health care providers, patient advocates and business leaders will share information and ideas to better understand the needs of people living with IBD.”
“New and more effective ways” to address IBD will also be discussed, she said. “Together, we can help bring the most innovative, effective tools — inspired by personal experiences — into the IBD marketplace.”
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