Who are we?
Precision Medicine in Dermatology.
In order to achieve this we will require a much deeper understanding about the different factors that contribute to the course of disease between patients with the same disease such as: Environmental. Genetic. Molecular. Our current research projects aim at developing technologies that should enable us to adress these questions, resulting in solutions that can one day support treatment decisions.
News from the hub
For the sixth year in a row, JPM week kicked off with the Dermatology Summit at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Organized by Advancing Innovation in Dermatology (AID), the conference included expert industry insights and a variety of panel discussions, fireside chats and networking events.
Included in the events was a Leadership Sponsor Panel, moderated by AID President William Ju, “Building Next Generation Innovations” that featured our very own Michael Sierra along with Ray Miller and David Smith of Pepper Hamilton LLP, Neal Walker of Aclaris Therapeutics and Steve Xu of Northwestern’s Center for Bio-integrated Electronics.
The discussion provided great insight into our vision for the dermatology industry and highlighted the strategies, goals and overall mindset behind the newly-formed AID Accelerator Fund, an initiative aimed at creating a one-of-a-kind innovation ecosystem for the dermatology community.
Since its inception in 2011, AID has focused on generating ideas to drive advancement in the field of dermatology. Panel moderator and President of AID, William Ju, MD, FAAD, opened the discussion by explaining the organization’s commitment to identifying industry “pain points” and eluding to what he calls the “People Pipeline” and the “Product Pipeline”.
For William “innovation productivity” requires nurturing talented individuals that have the potential to solve key challenges in dermatology. To help do this, AID offers a 10-month, virtual curriculum-based scholar’s program, modeled on the Magic Wand® Initiative started at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Dermatology, which is open to residents, fellows and early-career researchers with an interest in innovation. Panelist Steve Xu commented, “Dermatology attracts some of the brightest and most accomplished students in medical school. There is a tremendous talent pool, but many of them don’t know about the industry side.”
Each panelist agreed that the true challenge lies not just in conceptualizing and nurturing academic ideas but turning them into real assets.
So, as noted during the discussion, AID took things a step further in 2018 and, with the help of LEO Pharma and Pepper Hamilton, launched The AID Accelerator Fund, which aims to bridge the gap between institutional funding and traditional venture capital for very early-stage, breakthrough technologies by offering seed-money and hands-on support and mentorship.
Ray Miller spoke of his passion for AID’s mission, saying, “While it’s a relatively small amount of capital, the benefit is in the mentorship and relationships. AID brings clinical, business and legal expertise to the table. We are able to lay out the steps, milestones and overall plan of action for participants. Many early-stage startups simply don’t have that type of knowledge, which is necessary to succeed.”
Echoing Ray’s statement, David Smith added, “The value lies in the ability to provide strategic infrastructure to move great science forward into assets that can be developed. At such an early-stage, when you don’t really have a team, the initial high-risk funding is magnified in value.”
A key component of our accelerator fund is another new development: Hacking Dermatology. The year-long, tech-oriented hack-a-thon initiative lays out dermatology-focused challenge prompts and brings together diverse teams of people to gain hands-on experience and work to develop product solutions. MIT’s Hacking Medicine Institute, AID, and LEO brought this idea to life.
Michael Sierra believes the initiative, “Allows us to take part in not just incremental innovation, but higher-risk projects with the potential for greater impact.”
For everyone involved with AID, a major goal is to continue expanding our reach through academic partnerships with chemistry departments, engineering departments, business schools, innovation teams and more.
Partnerships with promising start-ups are just as important as academia and we believe that radical innovations are not going to come from the industry itself, they are going to come from the outside. We are looking for ideas and technologies that have the potential to be transformative, similar to Air BnB and Uber; that is where we think the truly great opportunities lie.
The idea of “putting skin in the game” was a key theme of this year’s Summit. It’s not just about making drugs but affecting patients’ lives and focusing on the larger goal of creating an innovation ecosystem.
For all involved, our affiliation with AID and The Derm Summit represents an opportunity to give back to the dermatology community and provide real and lasting value in our industry. We all look forward to the year ahead as we continue working to make dermatology a shining example of a specialty that champions innovation and collaboration.
Advancing Innovation in Dermatology (AID), Hacking Medicine Institute (HMi), and LEO Science & Tech Hub, the Boston-based R&D innovation unit of LEO Pharma, officially announce the final winners of Hacking Dermatology. Awardees include Lucid, a personalized and automated home patch testing solution, RxThat, an online prescription marketplace and management application, and MatchLab, a skin-image analysis service that provides image tracking and datasets for use in AI diagnostic models.
Hacking Dermatology, in a 12-month process, brought together clinical and scientific experts, patients, engineers, and innovators to reimagine the landscape of patient access to dermatological intervention. At the start of the initiative in April of this year, over 40 experts came together to identify the biggest challenges in this field. Next, over 120 participants and mentors formed 20 teams at a hackathon in June, where they spent three packed days learning about the challenges and developing solutions to address them. At the end of the hackathon, 5 teams were awarded $5,000 each to enter a condensed incubation period. During this time they honed their ideas, did market research, and fleshed out pitches.
In October, these teams came before a panel of expert judges to compete for $55,000 in grants. This final pitch competition in October was hosted by HMi and its affiliated organization MIT Hacking Medicine and was held at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. The top three teams were awarded these grants were entered into an acceleration period where they will receive mentorship and access to resources in order to advance their solutions to market.
The 1st place team, Lucid, is focused on at home patch testing for targeted allergies. One of the team’s co-founders, Sameer Gupta, spoke about the support his team received throughout the process, “Through the hackathon experience, we were able to reflect on inefficiencies in current allergy diagnostics, to imagine a more personalized and accessible solution, and to develop a viable product with maximal benefit for patients.”
Nick Rance, a co-founder of another one of the winning teams, reflected on the process, “Hacking Dermatology was instrumental in helping us conceptualize and develop MatchLab AI. They prioritized our mission and were extremely proactive in providing advice and sharing their knowledge. The partnership also helped us form important relationships with dozens of industry experts who have been critical to our development, which otherwise would not have been possible.”
Hacking Dermatology focused on challenges related to artificial intelligence in dermatology, diagnosis, measurement and evaluation of chronic skin disease, treatment costs, and topical delivery of medications. Over 40 mentors joined the project and each brought a critical, expert perspective on the identified challenges. James Allred, M.D., is the Chief Clinical Adviser of RxThat, another one of the three finalist teams. He described the nurturing environment that the initiative provided to boost team productivity: “Their mentorship helped refine our technology and service offerings for key stakeholders within the healthcare delivery ecosystem and further inspired our commitment to improving the patient journey for those living with skin disease.”
Hacking Dermatology was modeled on the Hacking Medicine Institute’s extended innovation program, and was the result of a productive partnership between AID, HMi, and LEO Science & Tech Hub. “The level of talent we witnessed among the participants validated our vision and goal of creating a blueprint for a hackathon tailored to our field of work,” said Alex Costa, Senior Technology and Innovation Manager of LEO Science & Tech Hub. “This event exceeded our expectations. Some truly great ideas were developed and choosing winners was not an easy process. We wish all of them luck as they continue their work.”
“Initiatives like Hacking Dermatology are of ever-growing importance to our field,” said Adam Raff, MD, PhD, Education Committee Member at Advancing Innovation in Dermatology and Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. “True innovation requires collective effort and it was inspiring to see such a diverse group of students and professionals come together to solve some of the industry’s most pressing issues.”
“LEO Science & Tech Hub and AID are both organizations that value open science and innovation and as a result, their businesses are structured around processes, support services and an overall mindset that helps maximize the potential of new ideas,” said Laura Duerksen, Executive Director of Hacking Medicine Institute. “In implementing the HMi pipeline of innovation, which involves a wide base of health system stakeholders and experts, we were able to successfully seed new ideas from the theme of the dermatological patient journey. We look forward to expanding on our relationship with AID and LEO in the future.”
About Hacking Medicine Institute + MIT Hacking Medicine
HMi is an educational 501c3 that practices and studies contemporary healthcare innovation, by working with industry and academic partners to organize hackathons and challenges and by studying the process of innovation and publishing on findings. These complimentary, parallel programs allow for the active progress of healthcare innovation through critical and evidenced based strategies.
MIT Hacking Medicine is a group founded at MIT in 2011, comprising of MIT students and community members, aimed at energizing the healthcare community and accelerating medical innovation. We accomplish this by carrying out health hackathons, design thinking workshops, and networking gatherings to teach healthcare entrepreneurship and develop digital strategies to scale medicine as a way to solve health problems worldwide. To date, the group has organized more than 150 events across 15 countries and 5 continents with over 40 companies, raising over $200M in venture funding.
About Advancing Innovation in Dermatology (AID)
Advancing Innovation in Dermatology (AID) is a non-profit organization committed to catalyzing the development of new solutions that can significantly improve skin health. Through multiple initiatives, activities, and actions, AID provides support, resources, and a nexus for individuals and organizations who are affecting change in dermatology by creating a next generation of innovative and impactful products.
About LEO Science & Tech Hub
The LEO Science & Tech Hub is an R&D innovation unit of LEO Pharma dedicated to identifying, developing, and funding innovative solutions that improve the lives of people with skin diseases. It was founded in 2016 as a catalyst to transform early-stage innovations into solutions for improving the lives of people with skin diseases. We collaborate, explore cutting-edge ideas and make investments. We are an agile group of scientific experts with an entrepreneurial mindset and a vision of how to give patients control over disease by predicting, diagnosing, and monitoring conditions. The LEO Science & Tech Hub is based in Cambridge, Mass.