Pharma: Putting up prize money to solve tough healthcare problems

Published by Lodestone Logic on

The pharmaceutical industry gets a bad rap for many different things, but recently there’s been some good recognition of their interests in spawning healthcare innovation and transformation through the sponsorship of ‘challenges’.

Holding challenges to solve tough problems is not generally a new concept; think Xprize for figuring out how to get into space in a cheaper, more cost effective way or improve test scores of elementary aged children. Almost a decade ago, eLilly launched Innocentive ( to put out bounties to surface unique resources and the world’s brains to solve difficult problems in everything from bio-chemical synthesis, engineering, or fragrance development. The US government has even launched their own website for multiple types of challenges at You don’t have to read Daniel Pink to know that if there’s a reward or financial incentive, more people will invest their own time and energy to create a solution and try for the prize.

So, it is really encouraging to see specific pharmaceutical companies use challenges as a way to reach out to the public and make some great things happen. What makes this so interesting is that the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and other healthcare stakeholders is very symbiotic. Yet, in many cases we fail to see that the opportunity to bring together all of the stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem to find solutions that will benefit everyone in the room.

In the challenge arena, with over $1M in prize money committed in 2012, Sanofi and Janssen are the pharmaceutical thought leaders.



US Data Design Diabetes Innovation Competition


Prize money: over $200,000

Description: The focus of this challenge was to use data to create a human-centered and data-inspired innovation for any single or multiple stakeholders in the diabetes ecosystem.

Winner: n4a Diabetes Care Center

Collaborate Activate


Prize money: $500,000

Description: This challenge was focused on bringing together multiple teams or patient advocacy organizations to develop solutions that will encourage people to engage in their health and wellbeing. An interesting facet of this challenge was that the teams and solutions had to be connected to a fully registered non-profit organization. The intent was to further cross-pollinate ideas and energy to develop solutions that will be sustainable.

Winner: 4 finalists have been selected, winner announced in mid-November, 2012


Janssen Healthcare Innovation Group

Connected Care Challenge

Co-Sponsor(s): National Transitions of Care Coalition (NTOCC)


Prize money: $250,000

Description: Consistent with HHS’s triple aim goals, the focus of this challenge was to improve transitions from the hospital to the home and to reduce overall re-admission rates.

Winner: RightCare Solutions, Inc., D2S2 software system


Alzheimer’s Challenge 2012

Co-sponsor(s): Pfizer, Geoffrey Beene Gives Back® Alzheimer’s Initiative


Prize money: $175,000

Description: To develop a simple, cost-effective tool that will allow for easy assessment and/or diagnosis of an Alzheimer’s patient’s status with regards to memory, mood, thinking, and activity level over time.

Winner: Team, Behavioral Analytics Platform


Many people will question the true motivation behind a pharmaceutical company sponsoring these types of competitions. However, if one were to really look at each of the challenges, the true return on the investment (ROI) will be recognized beyond any one pharmaceutical company; instead, when one of these solutions is scaled and implemented, then patients will experience the ROI through better care, information, and outcomes.  What’s so wrong with that?