Bayer HQ in Berlin, Germany

Bayer: Making Good on the Promise of ‘Science for a Better Life’

From the potentially lofty perspective of multinational life sciences company, Bayer, it might be understandably hard to connect with the grass-roots digital health community. But that’s exactly what makes Bayer’s Grants4Apps initiative so remarkable. Spearheaded by Jesus del Valle, this program within Bayer offers major opportunities for outside talent to team up with Bayer’s in-house resources and experts to solve real-world problems in the digital health sector.

Grants4Apps’ Accelerator and Deal Maker programs are intended to foster creative talent towards health solutions while shortening the typically long process required for such a large company to engage startups at various stages–from idea to mature.

Invitation for guests to place dots indicating how developed their startup is.

At a recent Meetup session/Open Day whose timing synchs with the upcoming June 30th, 2017 deadline for submitting Deal Maker applications, Jesus del Valle gave a warm welcome to the nearly 80 people in attendance, in-person and online.(Note: that still leaves a few weeks to make it happen, people!) He then introduced 5 experts from Bayer who covered critical challenges from wide-ranging topics: Female health, Clinical trials, Bioinformatics, Strategic marketing, and Communications.

Solving for the Real World

What struck me about these diverse challenges identified by Bayer staff members, was that they generate potentially huge opportunities to positively impact health outcomes — including saving lives. Here are some examples:

  • Women’s Reproductive Health: 1) How to raise awareness about endometriosis, and shorten its typically-long (7-year) diagnosis time; and 2) How to expand which contraceptive options women hear about from their doctors and have access to?
  • Clinical Trials: How to better navigate the complicated, unique and highly-regulated nature of clinical trials through better patient engagement and communication?
  • Bioinformatics: How to help researchers efficiently navigate the sea of research papers as well as automate drug design to optimize for new targets?
  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): How to recognize signs of CKD (tricky as it is considered asymptomatic) early enough to avoid progression, and raise awareness beyond well-known diabetes? Since 30% of people with Diabetes go on to develop CKD, it makes sense to investigate how to help people avoid that progression– which often results in dialysis.
  • Pulmonary Intensive Care: How to avoid cases of hospital-acquired pneumonia through new progress in devices and medications via awareness and trainings? Of interest would be an innovative method to reach a clinical audience who functions under the busy and demanding pressures of the Intensive Care Unit. This viral social media solution mixing skin cancer care and tattoo artistry in Brazil arose as an example. Check it out here.

Identifying these challenges reveals both a forward-thinking approach and a willingness to collaborate in order to deeply improve health on a global scale, and through the medium of digital solutions and communication.

Fostering Creativity from Within

After the short presentations, we got an inside look at the facilities inside Bayer dedicated to Grants4Apps and their startups. Companies selected for these programs receive funding, work space, mentorship, and potential partnerships. Deep in the belly of Berlin’s Bayer HQ, the workspace was adorned with beautifully hand-drawn infographics by Brazilian creative consultancy, EstudioPira, which describe the nature of Grants4Apps as well as the purpose of the individual startups currently supported.

As the event wrapped up, two separate walls caught my attention.

One was called the “Wall of Fame” where guests could tag their name or cause directly on the all. This inclusive, free-spirited area indicates the overall vibe that the initiative conveys: sharing and making your mark.

The other wall featured a quote by Mahatma Ghandi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were going to live forever.”

This devotion to learning seems to encompass Grants4Apps mission to share what health problems need to be solved, and discover what technological resources are out there to solve them. This begs the question: how many other major players like Bayer are pursuing such a nurturing approach to digital health solutions? Kindly let me know, if you know.

Inspirational wall in the workspace area
The Wall of Fame

Reporting from within a Venn diagram of health, tech and empowerment. Berlin-based. Internationally minded. Comms @ Earlybird Venture Capital