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
Hacking Dermatology is an initiative that aims to bring interdisciplinary teams together to solve the important challenges facing patients with skin disease. It is led and supported by a consortium of academic, non-profit, and industry partners, including Hacking Medicine Institute (HMi), LEO Pharma, Advancing Innovation in Dermatology (AID), MIT Hacking Medicine, and the Lahey Medical Center Department of Dermatology. This first Hacking Dermatology program focuses on the challenges patients with inflammatory skin diseases face, and the process for problem identification and solution creation includes multiple events designed around HMi’s healthcare innovation framework.
Hacking Medicine Institute Healthcare Innovation Framework
Advancing the Framework: Framing + Hacking
Frame: On April 7th, 2018 a group of about thirty expert scientists, clinicians, researchers, and industry leaders came together to discuss critical challenges facing patients with inflammatory skin disease. Thought leaders presented professional opinions on the largest pain points in the field, and through a crowd sourcing exercise, the entire group developed 5 top challenges. These statements were fed into the June 2018 hackathon as challenge prompts.
Hack: On June 8-10, around 120 people came together to “hack dermatology”. The three-day weekend hackathon started on Friday and included background talks from leaders from multiple stakeholder groups. The kickoff as one participant put it, “Excellent! One of the best hackathons I’ve been to. The Friday evening program was also a great way to get the entrepreneurial spirit going, and I was so impressed by how well supported the event was by mentors and industry leaders.” The participants came from exceptionally diverse backgrounds, ranging from clinical dermatology to industrial design to data science to chemical engineering, and formed teams to work on ideas ranging from portable devices that measure environmental factors that can trigger inflammatory skin conditions to smart clothing for treating them.
The weekend was infused with enthusiasm and dedication. Hacking Dermatology mentor and judge Adam Raff, MD, PhD, who is a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of AID, said, “Hacking Dermatology was filled with incredible energy and excitement from the participants. To see patients, scientists, engineers, and physicians joining forces to solve the most critical problems in dermatology was inspiring. The innovations that blossomed over the weekend offer real hope to improve the lives of patients and I cannot wait to see how the teams and their ideas evolve over the next few months.”
Arash Mostaghimi, MD, MPA, MPH from Brigham & Women’s Hospital and a member of one of the finalist teams, said, “It was great to connect with a community of data scientists, materials engineers, and other clinicians to develop creative solution for pain points in dermatology.”
At the end of the weekend, 5 teams were selected by a panel of judges to be finalists. These teams – Eir, HyJamas, Lucid, Matchlab, and PatchMe.
Eir is a voice enabled AI assistant for patients with chronic dermatological challenges. Eir makes it simple and easy for patients to track their medical conditions and help supercharge consultations by creating digestible summaries for patients to share with their dermatologist, resulting in happier patients and fewer doctor visits.
HyJamas™ is simple to use and comfortable sleepwear for eczema patients and people suffering from skin dryness. At the core of HyJamas is a proprietary moisturizing fabric technology, which prevents itch flare ups and promises a good night’s sleep.
Lucid is a first-in class personalized and automated home patch testing solution. We replace the months of wait time and multiple in-office visits of traditional patch testing by sending patients personalized patch kits based on their health history, occupational exposures, and a digital assessment of their personal health products. Patch test results are instantly interpreted at home using computer vision technology and translated into easy-to-follow product recommendations that improve patient adherence and long-term health.
Matchlab provides cosmeceutical companies with key insights on product performance across various target populations. We provide an application for consumers to try new test products and a dashboard for cosmeceutical companies to receive real-time feedback on product performances.
PatchMe: Augmented reality experience for pediatric eczema patients.
Next Steps: Each of the finalist teams move on to the Incubation stage of the Hacking Dermatology framework, which includes $5k in grant funding and access to dedicated mentors to advance their proposals and ideas. All the finalists will be automatically included in the next round of pitches for additional grants ($50k in total). The date for this pitch competition will be in early October 2018. Because the judges had a very hard time narrowing the winners down to just 5 finalists, all the teams were encouraged to continue to working on their respective projects, because they too will have the opportunity to apply to the pitch competition in October.
Finalist Team Photos
Innovation is on the agenda for most of big corporations. Executives are aware innovation should be in the DNA of the organization in order to be competitive, survive the long game and most importantly bring the best in class solutions to customers. However, a traditional corporate infrastructure can often be a double-edged sword for innovations – while it provides the necessary financial resources and support for groundbreaking ideas, the ever-growing corporate structure and its bureaucracy could hinder development of breakthrough projects.
To overcome such challenges, LEO Pharma established the LEO Science & Tech Hub and it has been set up to operate in a unique fashion that could be seen as independent yet well integrated with different research units within LEO Pharma.
It’s been close to two years since the LEO Science & Tech Hub established itself in Cambridge, USA. Since then, we’ve launched new projects, expanded our reputation and developed a number of notable partnerships and collaborations within the Greater Boston and New York areas. We’ve done so by fully embracing the mission and model on which the LEO Science & Tech Hub was founded: to foster innovation, support great ideas and identify technologies that enable LEO Pharma to build a precision medicine platform within dermatology. So far, our journey towards this goal has taught us quite a bit, and we’d like to share some of what we’ve learned:
- Innovation is a mindset rather than an organizational design
Domain expertise, talented employees and a supportive organizational structure are all great assets for an innovation unit. But what we have discovered is that many other elements are arguably more important for your organization’s success. For example, at the hub we have made the conscious effort to champion open and free dialogue, transparency, willingness to take risks and accountability. Our team truly values the culture of addressing what we like to call the “elephant in the room.” More specifically, we are all encouraged to speak up regarding potential problems found in our day-to-day processes so that we can constantly work to improve upon them. We instill this mindset in every member of our team, regardless of hierarchy or title.
- Capabilities and competencies
Build a team where you have the best people on board – the doers. The capabilities and competencies in the team need to complement each other. We like to think of our team as a commando-like team where every team member has his or her unique specialty or competency and at the same time are able to lead discussions outside their specialty. This creates a scenario where an individual is comfortable covering for his or her colleague when necessary. One way to achieve this is by creating a working environment where knowledge sharing is of high priority.
- Keep your decision-making team small and report higher in the organization
Remember that your innovation department is external-facing, therefore make your collaborative partnerships a priority. Agility and the ability to make quick decisions is crucial to ensuring success, thus reporting higher in the organization helps you avoid bureaucracy and unneeded governance boards. At the hub, our team members are empowered to make decisions and at the same time we’ve kept our decision-making team small, which has streamlined processes including flexible budgets and that has made a big difference overall.
- Putting “Skin” in the game
Our mindset has become very much centered around what value we can bring to our potential partners as opposed to what’s in it for us, and this has made all the difference. In fact, it has been one of the most critical learnings for the Hub and has enabled us to build meaningful relationships with external partners. This way of thinking implies a commitment to long-term growth as opposed to just immediate success. Our team feels a sense of empowerment when we spend quality time and resources helping start-ups and external partners within the local ecosystem achieve their own goals. We trust the process and recognize that this type of work will be well worth it in the long run.
- Collaborations should be based on high scientific integrity and transparency
We strive to ensure that partners and potential collaborators benefit from meetings with our team. This means that solid preparation must take place beforehand. Aim to deliver high-quality input to the individual or group sitting across the table from you, but don’t be afraid to admit where you lack knowledge or don’t know. Partnerships in this field are most often born from a mutual passion for the science behind it all, so make sure that this is your focus. Discussions around legal and ownership matters can wait. When those conversations do come about, consider flexible collaboration models that suit all stakeholders.
- Connect and integrate with internal research/business units
At the hub, we love the quote, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This sentiment is important, especially for innovation units, as they are often expected to be flexible with regards to their working model. While you definitely want to maintain a certain level of flexibility, it is important to stay integrated with your internal business units. Most innovation projects, if successful, will need to be fully integrated into the organization at some point, so it is key to ensure your internal ambassadors are tied in and informed. Secondly, you have a wealth of internal expertise that should be plugged in whenever necessary; remember, the innovation unit and the other units are in this journey together. To make it easier, create a working model where people from other business units can come and spend quality time at your office to get inspired and visualize opportunities that otherwise would have been missed.
- It is ok to ask for help within your network
One of the most beneficial aspects of joining the ecosystem in Boston (and the U.S for that matter) is that a lot of people know someone who could potentially have the required capabilities or competencies to impact initiatives. People here understand the importance of networking, especially those who are trying to develop innovative products and solutions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help but be aware of the local business culture e.g. response time for emails etc. If your approach is both targeted and respectful, you’ll be surprised at how many relevant connections you can make.
- The special sauce
Even if the above steps and roadmaps are followed, none of this would be possible without a great vision and leadership. Remember innovation units are built with a focus on spotting future opportunities and in a dynamic world like today where disruption comes from the outside e.g. Uber and taxis, Airbnb and hotel industries and in order to maneuver in such an environment, one would need the courage and strength to explore the unknown. So hand the responsibilities of leading such initiatives to individuals who are able to envision a future for your organization and at the same time are able to take their colleagues on a journey towards that vision.