Shark Tank Competition Held by Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) School of Pharmacy

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Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) School of Pharmacy second-year students participated in a Shark Tank event on December 8, 2015. Industry guests were invited to serve as panelists and evaluate the viability of each team's pharmacy technology application pitch.

Shark Tank Competition
I wanted to challenge the students to recognize and address the issues that modern pharmacy is facing and see if they could come up with informatics solutions to help address those issues.

KGI School of Pharmacy second-year students recently participated in a Shark Tank event. Industry guests were invited to serve as panelists and evaluate the viability of each team's pharmacy technology application pitch. The event was part of the PHAR 430 Introduction to Pharmacy Informatics class, taught by Associate Professor Armen Simonian, PharmD, assistant dean and chair of clinical and administrative sciences at the KGI School of Pharmacy.

The course in pharmacy informatics focuses on medication-related knowledge, data, and associated technology within healthcare systems and consists of the acquisition, storage, analysis, use, and dissemination of data to help provide safe, efficient, evidenced-based patient care. In bridging the gap between traditional and more hands-on learning, Professor Simonian decided he would create a competition that would require students to work in groups and create relevant applications that could address current gaps in technology and apply new technologies to the practice of pharmacy. This "App Competition," described as "Hackathon" meets "Shark Tank," was devised as an opportunity for students to participate in an active learning exercise and was introduced on the first day of class in fall 2015.

As Simonian explained: "Technology is changing so rapidly. We can introduce the current commercially available applications, but by the time our students graduate and start practicing, the technology landscape might look quite different. I wanted to challenge the students to recognize and address the issues that modern pharmacy is facing and see if they could come up with informatics solutions to help address those issues. We mentally stretched our students to employ recently learned management and informatics concepts and develop realistic business plans for developing and marketing their new applications. We created a real-world situation that translated into a meaningful and interesting learning experience."

As part of the competition, students were asked to develop app ideas as core informatics concepts were taught. The class was divided into 11 teams, each with six to seven students. The competition brought five industry leaders to KGI's campus to serve as "Sharks," judging the student presentations. Each team had five minutes to present their app idea and five minutes to respond to questions from the panel. Panelists then followed with an evaluation of each team using a standardized rubric. Based on the highest scores, teams were awarded first, second, and third place.

For students, the event was a welcome challenge. KGI School of Pharmacy student Ariana Ayón Verduzco explained: "Shark Tank is only one of the avenues in which professors challenge us to rise to the issues in pharmacy. This (competition) was a phenomenal opportunity for us to employ our creativity, work as a team, and be entrepreneurial. The classes leading up to the event were like a think tank where we exchanged ideas, offered feedback, and encouraged one another's creativity. Perhaps the best part of the project was engineering a solution to the world of third-party payer issues! Our app, inSUREassist, is a patient-centered multi-faceted application that puts patient's third-party benefits in the palm of their hands. I loved presenting our project and only wish we had more time to do more market research and enhance our product."

KGI School of Pharmacy Student Carolyn Woodside shared a similar sentiment: "The Shark Tank competition was an amazing opportunity for P2 Students. It was an exciting day that involved collaborating with my team to be creative and innovative in developing a new product and application. The event had been more than I had anticipated, and I am grateful to have been involved."

Results were as follows:

  •     1st place: Team 9, 6 Essential Vitamins, MedITS
  •     2nd place: Team 12, 12x (Rx), SpeakRx
  •     3rd place: Team 7, Rx Scripts, OTCare

Full Listing of Teams:

Team 1, Alpha Blockers, PocketSurance
Team 2, Daily Dose, OTCme
Team 3, League of Extraordinary Pharmacists, InSUREassist
Team 4, DJHawks (Jocks), inSTARx
Team 5, Judgemoxins, SCANHealth
Team 7, Rx Scripts, OTCare
Team 8, KangaRxoos, Check & Protect
Team 9, 6 Essential Vitamins, MedITS
Team 10, Apothecary, SpecCheck
Team 11, Kapsulz Gone Intelligenz, MedTrac
Team 12, 12x (Rx), SpeakRx

Judge Panelists:

Paul Grand serves as the Managing Director at RCT Ventures and head of MedTech Innovator. Prior to joining RCT, Grand was co-founder and VP of Operations of Imagine Pharmaceuticals, which developed a platform to selectively deliver therapeutics and other compounds across the blood brain barrier. He was also co-founder and CEO of MicroSurgeon, which developed a microwave thermal ablation device for the treatment of solid tumors.

Donald Jones serves as Chief Digital Officer for Scripps Translational Science Institute and advises companies, governments and foundations on digital health. He is globally recognized for his expertise in wireless technologies, mobility and network effect for fitness, health and healthcare products, apps and therapies.

Leonard Lee is a program director at IBM Watson Health, and manages strategic partnerships and solutions for health and wellness. He is focused on deriving meaningful insights from our daily interactions with mobile devices, biosensors, and wearables. Prior to this role, he managed IBM's portfolio of software solutions for healthcare, life sciences, and defense, with responsibilities spanning strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and solution development. Along the way he has worked on healthcare portals, predictive medical systems, and drug discovery. In a past life he worked on interactive toys, data visualization, and other strange things at IBM Research. Leonard is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, where he researched pervasive computing systems, and virtual and augmented reality. He also studied computer science at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland.

Dev Mazumdar has been a serial entrepreneur and currently, the CEO of PacketBio - a medical devices startup focused on building Internet enabled medical devices and developing data analytics software to analyze massive volumes of medical data.

John P. Wareham served in several roles for Beckman Coulter, Inc., which include Chief Executive Officer, President and the VP of Diagnostic Systems Group. He also served as chairman of Beckman. Prior to joining Beckman Coulter, he served as the President of Norden Laboratories, Inc., a subsidiary of Smithkline Beckman Corporation. Mr. Wareham began his career with Smithkline in 1968 serving in a variety of positions spanning operations research, corporate planning and development and group finance positions in the ultrasonic and pharmaceutical businesses.

KGI’s mission is to enrich society with breakthrough approaches to education and translational research in the life sciences. The KGI School of Applied Life Sciences is dedicated to education and research aimed at translating into practice the power and potential of the life sciences for the benefit of society. The School of Pharmacy is dedicated to the education of innovative pharmacists who will serve the needs of individual patients, the healthcare system, and the bioscience industry. Our program emphasizes interprofessional collaboration, systematic problem solving, the safe, efficient and ethical use of technology and biotechnology, and personalized patient care.

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Cynthia Lujan

Cynthia Lujan
Keck Graduate Institute
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