02 Jul 2020   |   Network Updates   |   Update from EIT Health
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EIT Health: Virtual hackathon kicks off to break new ground in women’s health and digital therapeutics


Some 45 young innovators will meet for the first time today in the EIT Health Wild Card Hackathon, to form creative teams and begin developing new healthcare solutions in the fields of women’s health or digital therapeutics.

This will be the beginning of a months-long competitive journey, which is expected to culminate in the best two teams receiving mentoring, networking support and up to €2 million in financing, so that they can bring their healthcare innovations to the market.

Now in its third year, the EIT Health Wild Card programme provides intensive support to build game-changing life science companies that break new ground in health in response to unmet needs. The annual Wild Card programme begins with two challenges set by EIT Health and invites talented innovators from across Europe to respond with creative solutions.

The journey begins

Successful applicants start their journey at this Hackathon, which is being held online for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The participants will be coached by 20 leading mentors and work on team development, critical thinking, business model development and pitching. On 10 July 2020, after just over a week of intensive preparation, teams formed during the Hackathon will pitch their solution to a panel of industry leaders, in the hopes of being chosen to continue competing for the ultimate prize: support in bringing their ideas to market.

“The Hackathon is a very exciting phase of the Wild Card programme – it’s where we see highly talented individuals come together with complementary skill sets, where initial ideas are transformed into game-changing and viable business ventures, and where participants go from entrepreneur to CEO-in-waiting,” said Jorge Juan Fernández García, Director of Innovation, EIT Health. “Beyond the excitement, we are also reminded that we are here with a serious purpose – we simply must do more to drive advancements in women’s health and take advantage of the possibilities afforded to us by digital therapeutics. We look forward to discovering and developing the very best talent that can help us to improve the lives of patients and citizens in Europe”.

The challenges

Each year Wild Card teams are asked to address two challenges. This year the challenges are as follows:

Women’s Health: Women’s health has historically been under-recognised, and understanding of women’s health conditions and solutions to treat them have been slow. Women in Europe live, on average, ten years in ill health, with cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health conditions being the main causes of morbidity and mortality. Women are generally underrepresented in medical research, and are significantly more likely to have an adverse reaction to medication than men.

Digital Therapeutics: Although a relatively new field of healthcare, digital therapeutics hold great promise in revolutionising current medical practice, particularly in therapeutic areas where traditional medicine has fallen short. With an ageing population in Europe and many healthcare systems under strain from the demand caused by ageing and non-communicable diseases, new ways of treating and managing patients must be found. Defined as evidence-based therapeutic interventions to treat, manage or prevent a disease or condition using software programmes, digital therapeutics can be used independently, or combined with existing interventions to optimise patient care and improve outcomes.

From Hackathon to start-up

After choosing one of the challenges and pitching their solution to the jury at the Hackathon, the teams deemed to have the most potential for success receive further training and enter a final competition. The two winning finalists will be named at the end of October. These teams will form a start-up and receive incubation support from an EIT Health Partner, as well as up to €2 million each of EIT Health investment, to assist them in entering the market.

Past winners include the start-ups Abtrace and Smart4Diagnostics, who were named winners in 2018 and have since launched their products onto the market; and iLoF and PIPRA, who were winners in 2019 and continue to develop their products.

The EIT Health Wild Card process for nurturing ground-breaking healthcare innovations is on-going: EIT Health is currently in the process of finalising the challenges that will be posed to Europe’s innovators as part of the 2021 Wild Card programme.

Find out more about the Wild Card programme here.

This article was first published on 1 July by EIT Health.

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