Communication, patient engagement, and fertility – 3 key words describing the winners of the 2017 Merck hackathon in Rome. The second Italian edition of Merck for Health, organized in collaboration with Healthware Labs and Digital Magics took place on November 4-5. After the success of the first event, Merck once again invited young Italian talents to propose original solutions to solve health challenges using digital technologies. At Caffè Letterario in Via Ostiense, 15 teams challenged each other working non-stop for 24 hours in a marathon made up of innovative solutions, business plans and pitches to conquer the podium. The challenges provided by the pharma business of Merck Italy covered the range of different application fields, where the company holds a leading position, e.g. growth hormones or infertility treatment among others.
The first prize went to Kronos DNA, an all-women biomedical Startup that presented an innovative kit developed to allow a complete diagnosis of genetic infertility, supporting couples in this difficult experience. Beyond a cash prize of 5000€, the Startup joins a six-month incubation program by Healthware Labs in Salerno as well as fly to Dubai to attend the Merck X-Innovation Summit 2017.
The second position went to Pedius, a team that realizes systems to allow people with hearing impairments to make easily calls thanks to the text-to-speech integration, presenting during the event a system to facilitate patient care in the hospital by automating the communications based on their needs. The third place went to Growth Gaming Gang, a project designed to improve the therapy adherence of young patients undergoing treatment with growth hormone by exploiting the engagement of the game and the community around that. Both teams will have the opportunity to participate to Frontiers Health conference in Berlin, a key event in the digital health landscape in Europe, as well as joining Healthware’s accelerator. In addition, a special mention was made to a fourth project, Second Opinion, with which Merck reserves the opportunity to deepen the relationship over time.
Historically, the oldest pharmaceutical company in the world, Merck is also one of the most active in the international innovation scene. During the first panel of the event moderated by the journalist Alessio Nisi, the Managing Director of Merck Biopharma in Italy, Antonio Messina, opens the marathon: “Experimentation in Italy is strong, however, as happens in science, only a small part it turns into concrete solutions. From this point of view the road is still long, but we at Merck are doing our part trying to enhance the meeting between new ideas and our company using the potential offered by open innovation.”
As highlighted by Munya Chivasa, Head of the Merck Accelerator program in Darmstadt: “Digital healthcare is clearly a key sector. Over the past 5 years, as many as 29 billion private funds have been invested in this area to facilitate rapid and competitive developments. The impact of new technologies such as AI can drastically reduce the time and resources used in traditional processes. All this putting patients at the center of innovation and therapy.”
The Innovation Center was the protagonist of the first Italian hackathon held in Rome in 2016, hosting in its Accelerator together with other Startups also the project called TOMMI, second qualified during the last hackathon. Back again as mentors, this year the co-founder of TOMMI told their success story linked to the creation of a virtual reality game dedicated to improve the quality of life of children with cancer during therapy.
As underlined by Antonio Messina: “In order to trigger the spark of innovation, there is still no common direction at national level. On this front, the Calenda reform and the 4.0 industry plan are significant, which shows that when there is goodwill and collaboration, change is really possible.”
“Merck for Health is not an initiative limited to itself: we follow the startups born during our hackathons with acceleration and incubation programs and follow-up paths to facilitate their maturation and growth” – said Luca Naponiello, Communication Manager of Merck. Paths that need to look out on the international ecosystems to catch trends and avant-gardes, enriching the future entrepreneurs.
Ideas starting from events such as Merck hackathons and then scaling it to increasingly structured and complex contexts, transferring the freshness of ideas “from below” to their possible applications at Merck and finally for the service of society.