Three Winners Will Share $1 Million for Innovation in IPF Catalyst Challenge

Three Winners Will Share $1 Million for Innovation in IPF Catalyst Challenge

Three companies will equally share $1 million for winning the IPF Catalyst Challenge, a competition that  fosters innovative solutions for helping idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) patients. The winners are Advanced Interactive Response Systems (AIRS)Owlstone Medical, and patientMpower.

The challenge, announced last year, is a collaboration between the venture philanthropy Three Lakes Partners, which works to end IPF, and MATTER, a Chicago-based technology incubator and innovation hub.

The competition was intended to engage innovators, entrepreneurs and researchers globally to improve the quality of life of IPF patients and find solutions for their greatest needs, including oxygen therapy. The challenge also welcomed education opportunities, devices and diagnostics, apps and tools for disease management, and novel scientific strategies to help find a cure for IPF.

Winners and judges holding the oversized IPF Catalyst Challenge check. Photo credit: Sean Su, CloudSpotter

AIRS proposed developing a high-quality, mobile oxygen safety and tracking device to improve the health of patients with IPF and the performance of caregivers.

“AIRS is honored to be a winner of the IPF Catalyst Challenge. We saw an unmet need in oxygen therapy for IPF patients and knew we could make a big difference in their quality of life, and even save lives with our solution. AIRS products ensure the proper amount of oxygen is being delivered by monitoring the oxygen supply and the oxygen user in real time. We’re excited to partner with others who share the same goal of improving the quality of life for IPF patients,” Valerie Obenchain, AIRS founder and CEO, said in a press release.

Owlstone proposed a system called Breath Biopsy platform to collect and analyze exhaled breath and search for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as biomarkers associated with IPF. According to Owlstone, the system may allow earlier disease diagnosis, enable timely treatment, and prevent loss of lung function. Ultimately, the company aims to enable the start of treatment before the disease reduces the patient’s quality of life.

“We are thrilled to win this award which recognizes the potential of our Breath Biopsy platform for the early detection of IPF. Breath Biopsy is already being used in clinical trials for a wide range of cancers, including lung and colorectal cancer, and has recently been integrated into a major clinical development program for a novel drug candidate for respiratory disease. In taking this step towards a Breathalyzer for IPF, we look forward to making a similar contribution to finding quality-of-life solutions for this devastating disease, and continue to work towards our vision of saving 100,000 lives and $1.5 [billion] in healthcare costs,” said Billy Boyle, Owlstone Medical co-founder and CEO.

Finally, patientMpower proposed a no-cost mobile platform with integrated monitors to help IPF patients manage their disease, while connecting them with peers, caregivers, and healthcare providers.

The patients are able to send and receive data concerning their lung function (based on spirometry tests), oxygen saturation (pulse oximetry), breathlessness, treatments, and other relevant parameters. The platform’s latest version includes new apps that help patients participate in clinical trials, provide educational information, and other features.

“Winning the IPF Catalyst Challenge is a pivotal moment for patientMpower and our mission to empower patients, those PF warriors, to live better with IPF. This funding will also be the catalyst for us to fully realize the potential of our digital biobank — data donated by all the PF warriors which is an amazing resource for IPF research. Through collaborations, we will continue to uncover new insights to map IPF human health. We would like to thank all those behind the IPF Catalyst Challenge for giving us this amazing opportunity to empower patients, to improve outcomes, and to accelerate research,” said Eamonn Costello, patientMpower CEO.

In addition, Level Ex won the Audience Choice Award ($50,000). The company’s project is to use virtual patients in a mobile video game in order to improve physicians’ decision-making related to IPF cases.

“We are honored to be selected as the Audience Choice Award Winner. Knowing that the IPF community sees the tremendous potential that our professional video games have to revolutionize medical training truly energizes our team. We are excited to move ahead and develop virtual patient cases that teach physicians how to successfully detect and treat IPF,” said Sam Glassenberg, Level Ex founder and CEO.

The other finalists in the IPF Catalyst Challenge were: Mayo Clinic Rochester, Cambridge Respiratory Innovations LimitedAmerican Thoracic SocietyDolby Vivisol, and the University of Chicago Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) Team.

“We couldn’t be more thankful for the inspiring ideas we saw over the course of this competition, and are honored to help bring our winners’ solutions to life. We’re excited for the promise that lies ahead,” said Ken Bahk, PhD, managing director at Three Lakes Partners.

The event presenting the winners of the Challenge took place Jan. 24 at MATTER‘s Chicago headquarters.

“Congratulations to the winners and we look forward to seeing the difference you can collectively make in tackling this disease; and a special thanks to Three Lakes Partners and MATTER for your dedication to improving the lives of so many individuals and families across the world,” added Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.


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