Rewarding Creative Thinking in Oncology: The Astellas C3 Prize

Nov 13, 2017
Ahead of last week's announcement of the winner of the 2017 Astellas Oncology C3 Prize, Mark Reisenauer, senior vice president, Oncology Business Unit at Astellas, tells PharmExec about the development and objectives of the initiative. 
 
Now in its second year, the Astellas Oncology C3 Prize is a global challenge designed to acknowledge and support non-medicine innovations to improve the cancer care experience for patients, caregivers and their loved ones. Last month, Astellas announced the five CPrize finalists (see below), chosen from more than 160 entries to present their ideas to change cancer care in a live forum at the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) World Cancer Leaders’ Summit (WCLS) in Mexico City this week. Following the live pitches, Astellas award the Grand Prize Winner of a $50,000 grant and a personal business consultation with Robert Herjavec, technology entrepreneur, to Hernâni Oliveira for the HOPE PROJECT.
 
Applicants to this year’s challenge included patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and technology entrepreneurs from more than 20 countries who submitted ideas in four areas where patients living with cancer and the overall cancer community face some of the toughest obstacles: navigating the health care system, adhering to complex medical care requirements, coordinating care and surviving life post-treatment. The five finalists are:
 
  • Kevin Bambury of Killarney, Ireland, ONCOassist, which has developed an interactive informational app designed to contain all of the tools oncology professionals need at point of care to help diagnose and manage treatment.
  • Howard Isenstein of Bethesda, Maryland, Care Progress, whose appCarePrompter aims to improve patient navigation, adherence and care coordination by prompting patients to check in with their clinicians frequently on a wide range of topics.
  • Cory Kidd of San Francisco, California, Catalia Health, which has developed the Mabu Wellness Coach Platform featuring an AI-powered companion robot that incorporates psychology, evidenced-based healthcare solutions, and artificial intelligence to help patients better manage their care.
  • (Grand Prize Winner) Hernâni Oliveira of Porto, Portugal, HOPE PROJECT, which consists of a two-part app developed to help both pediatric cancer patients and their parents solve issues related to medication adherence and the sedentary lifestyle of children that are diagnosed with cancer, and help parents further understand and explain complex cancer treatment procedures.
  • Charlotte Vander Stichele of Antwerp, Belgium, Mindbytes, whose Cancer Patient Decision Aid (CADA) would provide patients with an interactive scenario-based decision-support tool complete with information on disease burden, treatment impacts and the various decision-points during care.
Ahead of the finalists’ presentations, PharmExec spoke to Mark Reisenauer, senior vice president, Oncology Business Unit at Astellas, whose own experience caring for his late father influenced the development and launch of the C3 Prize initiative.

PharmExec: Can you outline how and why the C3 Prize was devised, and how your own experiences contributed to the process?

Mark ReisenauerMark Reisenauer: Astellas Oncology developed the C3 Prize because the global cancer burden is growing. By 2030, one study estimates that the global cancer burden is expected to grow to 20.3 million cancer cases. 
 
While the power of medical innovation is driving dramatic advances for cancer patients, more remains to be done for people with cancer and their loved ones outside of clinical treatment. Patients today can access more resources and tools than ever before to support their cancer journey, yet many still have unmet needs in areas such as care coordination, navigation, adherence, and survivorship. And, while there is so much excitement around cancer research, Astellas recognizes that it is only one part of the cancer care equation. Our experience in clinical trial research and working with patients shows us every day that there are many factors patients with cancer and their caregivers face on a daily basis as they live with the disease and manage the many aspects of care.
 
The C3 Prize encourages the entrepreneurial spirit of people around the world and helps bring non-treatment based innovations in cancer care to reality. It aligns with our mission and vision to enable cancer patients to focus on living. 
 
From a personal perspective, my connection as a caregiver for my father, who passed away from cancer last year, has added to my passion for this program. As a caregiver, I was surprised by the lack resources available to assist patients and caregivers navigate their treatment and the healthcare system. It’s truly daunting.


How difficult (or easy) was it to narrow the entrants down to five finalists?

We received 160 entries this year from around the world. Entries were evaluated based on the plausibility of the idea, creativity, and originality of innovation, as well as the ability of the entrant to operationalize and implement the innovative idea for a future application. The diversity of the ideas submitted this year was excellent, and the quality of the submissions was very high. It indeed was not easy to narrow down all the entrants to five finalists because there were no bad ideas in the group! 
 

What key cancer care issues emerged from the entries submitted this year, including and beyond those of the finalists?

Ideas addressing the issue of adherence were prevalent this year; several entrants proposed ways to tackle this aspect of the cancer care journey. We also saw transportation as an issue this year – another challenge faced by patients and their loved ones is getting to treatment promptly. I think that these ideas show the value of the C3 Prize, as there are specific issues and challenges that provide a new perspective to the treatment journey, and that have not yet been solved.
 

Does Astellas help to advance the winning idea toward a tangible solution? On that score, how has last year’s winning entry progressed?

Yes. One grand prize winner will receive a $50,000 grant from Astellas to bring their idea to life. The four runners up will each receive $12,500 grants, and all the finalists will receive a one-year membership to MATTER, a Chicago-based healthcare innovation community.
 
Diane Jooris of Brussels won last year’s C3 Prize. She is the founder of Oncomfort™, a company that develops virtual reality modules designed to help cancer patients manage anxiety before, during and after treatment. The C3 Prize provided the resources needed to complete the development of a new virtual reality module for young patients that they have named “Stella” in honor of Astellas.
 

Will the initiative continue next year? Are there any plans to revise or expand the process going forward?

The C3 Prize is an important program to Astellas Oncology. We haven’t begun planning for next year as we are so focused on this year’s challenge; however, I could not be more pleased with what we’ve achieved thus far with this innovative program and look forward to what the future holds.  
 
 
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