The Horizon Prize, powered by MIT Solve, seeks technology-based solutions that improve the lives and care of people who have been diagnosed with a rare disease. Solve is an initiative of MIT working to drive innovation and solve world challenges. Horizon Therapeutics launched the Horizon Prize with MIT Solve to seek solutions that leverage data and analytics. This year’s competition focused on improving quality of life for those suffering from rare diseases.
After a brief introduction by Rachael Drew, Portfolio Lead for MIT Solve, and Holly Copeland, Senior Director for Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability and Impact, at Horizon Therapeutics, the pitch competition began. Each finalist had three minutes to present their solution, followed by questions from Raquel Peck, Director at Clarion I, and Eda Selebatso, Founder & Chairperson of the Botswana Organisation for Rare Diseases (BORDIS).
Taking the stage, Cameron Van Breda, Founder & CEO of Hollo Limited, explained how his software platform helps to measure, track, and treat the mental health and wellbeing of chronic diseases patients. Half of all rare disease patients will develop depression so mental health is a crucial component of treatment. The gamified software uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide digital screening and personalized therapy, and then offers non-pharmacological therapeutic solutions.
When Melissa Bime, CEO of Infiuss Health Inc., was working as a nurse in Nigeria, she discovered that a study on sickle cell disease in pregnant women was studying women not diagnosed with sickle cell. Her solution offers a clinical trial management platform that allows drug companies to find clients that qualify for any clinical trial process. Specifically, the platform helps decentralize access to clinical research by connecting sponsors with the right participants, sites, and investigators that will allow them to run diverse, comprehensive trials and therefore speed drug development timelines.
After moving back to India to help care for his mother with chronic asthma, Dr. Gajanan Sakhare, Founder of Briota Aps, wondered why managing chronic lung conditions should be so cumbersome. Biota offers AI-based personalized programs for asthma and COVID-19 patients under the supervision of a pulmonologist, working in tandem with a family doctor and with the active participation of family members.
Dedicated to funding research to treat and cure Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), Michael Hund, CEO of EB Research Partnership, explained how this innovative model can be used to treat patients with other rare diseases. Their goal is to empower patients to overcome barriers and build community among those who share a common diagnosis through their Cure Curator Platform for Rare Disease. Patients who sign up are offered free genomic testing that will allow them to connect with the best medical center within 100 miles and with other patients who share the same type of disease.
In remote areas of Africa, access to care can be difficult to find. After completing his medical education, Dr. William Mapham, CEO of VULA Mobile, returned to his home region where he was one of only three physicians serving a population of 250,000 people. His app and online system connects healthcare workers by providing a secure platform to share advice. It is currently used by 28,000 healthcare workers and assists one patient per minute.
“We’re on a mission to decentralize access to clinical research by diversifying participant cohorts and shortening drug development timelines.”
Melissa Bime, CEO, Infiuss Health Inc.
“Our non-pharmacological approach to behavioral care in chronic health allows us to treat patients’ inevitable comorbid mental health conditions.”
Cameron Van Breda, Founder & CEO, Hollo Limited
“We recognize that as a global biotechnology focused on rare and rheumatic diseases, we don’t have all the answers.”
Holly Copeland, Senior Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability and Impact, Horizon Therapeutics
“We work to drive innovation to solve world challenges.”
Rachael Drew, Portfolio Lead, MIT Solve
“We can make EB history and give that time back to families, patients, and let them be kids and restore their childhood.”
Michael Hund, CEO, EB Research Partnership
“We connect healthcare workers by providing a safe and secure platform to share advice.”
Dr. WIlliam Mapham, CEO, VULA Mobile
“We know that the EB research has been innovating and pioneering for a while.”
Raquel Peck, Director, Clarion I
“I started asking questions about why managing a chronic lung condition has to be so difficult and stressful.”
Dr. Gajanan Devidas Sakhare, Founder, Briota Aps
“Your initiative would fill a huge gap when it comes to rare diseases in Africa, especially clinical trials.”
Eda Selebatso, Founder & Chairperson, Botswana Organisation for Rare Diseases (BORDIS)