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Winners announced for 2021 Innovation Challenge

The Parkinson School of Health Sciences and Public Health and Lyfebulb, a patient-empowerment platform and innovation accelerator, are excited to announce that Katherine Grill, PhD, co-founder and CEO at Neolth, was selected as the first-place winner of the 2021 Lyfebulb and Loyola University Chicago Innovation Challenge: “Meeting Our Moment – Reimagining Innovation, Improving Health Equity, and Building Resiliency.”

The 2021 Innovation Challenge took place virtually on November 16-17 and was open to entrepreneurs from diverse sectors working to address the effects of emerging infectious diseases (such as COVID-19) by improving population and public health, health care delivery, and health equity. Finalists were selected to compete at the Challenge and pitch their companies’ solutions to a panel of independent judges from a range of industries, including experts in the fields of public health, venture philanthropy, technology, and health care. Solutions presented ranged from biotechnology and contact tracing platforms to virtual clinics, wearables, and other products for consumers and healthcare professionals.

“This marks an exciting chapter for the Parkinson School,” said Elaine Morrato, DrPH, MPH, CPH, founding dean, Parkinson School. “With our inaugural 2021 Innovation Challenge, we are catalyzing innovation by funding novel solutions to improve society’s responsiveness to emerging health crises with the dual goal of reducing health inequities.”

Neolth will receive a $35,000 award to further develop its mission of addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth mental health by using technology to deliver affordable and accessible mental health support to students during times of crisis. Neolth’s AI-driven digital platform and mobile app offer an end-to-end solution for youth mental health, providing multiple resources and tools to help teens build resilience, increase emotional awareness, reduce stigma, and gain community and professional support.

Two runners-up will each receive a $20,000 award to further the growth of their companies. Yair Saperstein, MD, founder and CEO at avoMD, was selected for providing next-generation clinical decision support at the point of care, offering the best way for clinicians to deploy evidence-based protocols and standardized care pathways and thus reduce variations in the delivery of care. Additionally, Mihir Shah, founder and president at UE LifeSciences, was selected for enabling frontline health workers to easily find and document breast lumps without pain or radiation and in just a few minutes, providing equitable, affordable, and scalable access to care for women of all demographics.

The 2021 Innovation Challenge awards are funded by the generous endowment from Bob and Betty Parkinson, which created the Parkinson School. In addition to opportunities to network and engage with Loyola leadership and its broader community of students, faculty, and connected institutions, the three winners also received an invitation to participate in the five-week I-Corps@NCATS training program, which will be hosted by the Parkinson School in Spring 2022.

“The level of innovation presented by each finalist was impressive and inspiring, and we look forward to seeing their ventures grow and positively impact the healthcare ecosystem,” said Karin Hehenberger, MD, PhD, founder and CEO of Lyfebulb. “COVID-19 has posed significant challenges for all, but we have witnessed its disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, and we applaud our three winners for their dedication to improving access to care and reducing health disparities to create healthier and more resilient communities.”

To continue their commitment to facilitating discourse on public health, health care delivery, and health equity, the Parkinson School and Lyfebulb will be hosting a Fireside Chat with the winners of the 2021 Innovation Challenge and two members of the jury on Tuesday, November 30, at 4:30 p.m. EST. This virtual discussion is open to all members of the community, and more information may be found on Lyfebulb.com.