By Edd K. Usman
A Japan-headquartered healthcare company is seeking digital solutions for the treatment of Filipinos afflicted with cancer through its Digital Healthcare Innovation Challenge (DHIC).
Takeda Pharmaceuticals is putting up the startup competition through Takeda Healthcare Philippines, a subsidiary of Takeda Pharmaceuticals International GMBH, a Swiss company and subsidiary of the Japanese firm.
The company’s Philippine country manager, Gabriel Georgy, emphasized in a recent press briefing the urgent need to give cancer-stricken Filipinos the attention and treatment they deserve.
He said “the biggest challenge” for an archipelago like the Philippines, which has over 7,000 scattered islands, is “how to get to patients and diagnosed them using digital innovation.” “This is what drives us every single day,” Georgy said.
At the close of deadline application on June 27, he said 21 startup firms have answered the call with 12 coming from the Philippines; four from the US; two from India; one from Indonesia; and one from Malaysia. Takeda Pharmaceuticals will award the winner with $10,000 and will provide incubation support, Georgy revealed.
Asked why they chose the Philippines as the venue of its first startup competition, the Takeda official said: ?This is because Filipinos have embraced digital innovation, are fluent in English, and there are many startups (here).”
“We are aiming to help local companies, and to help oncology patients,” he said. “We are not looking to make money out of this. We are looking for solutions for Filipino families. It could be a website, an application, etc.”
Georgy said the number of cancer cases in the Philippines is alarmingly high, saying there are 109,280 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (HL) total cancer prevalence in the country, 56 percent of them women.
“Public awareness is a challenge, as well as to right diagnosis and treatment. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma comprises 25 percent of Philippine cancer cases, mostly in young population. Statistics show only 35 percent of patients are diagnosed and only 20-30 percent gets treated yearly,” he said in his presentation.
Georgy said of the cancer patients who received diagnosis, “60 percent usually results in death.” The year-on-year (YoY) cancer incidence is around 3,528 cases, which is expected to increase by 16 percent in five years, he added. Of these, he said, only 20-30 percent receives treatment every year.
In addressing cancer cases in the Philippines, Georgy recommended education on the disease and treatment options, and to come up with digital innovations. “Digital communication can do so much in public health awareness,” the Takeda official said.
He said judges of the startup competition will choose 10 finalists out of the 21 applications during the August 6 pitching stage based on impact on oncology, 30 percent; innovation, 10 percent; pilot potential, 20 percent; team competencies, 20 percent; and viability, 20 percent.
Georgy will lead the board of judges, with members such as Craig A. DeLarge, head of Takeda Digital Accelerator for Emerging Markets at Takeda Pharmaceutical International; Jay Fajardo, co-founder/CEO of ProudCloud Medifi and founder/CEO of Launch Garage; Philip Towle, associate director of Access to Medicine at Takeda Pharmaceutical International; and Dr. Gia Sison, chief medical officer at Global Telehealth Incorporated.
Incubators for Takeda are IdeaSpace, Launch Garage, University of the Philippines (UP) Enterprise, and KickStart; and Growth and Nest (from Hong Kong).