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 · By Eric Racine

Collaborate | Activate Innovation Challenge – Inspiring an Untapped Source of Innovative Ideas and Solutions

FACT #1:  The problems facing patients are too big for any one organization to solve on its own.

FACT #2:  Untapped capabilities and innovative ideas exist across the diverse patient advocacy community for improving patient health. 


Over the last several years of working with advocates, I have truly come to appreciate patient advocates’ passion and dedication for helping people live healthier lives.  When people with diverse backgrounds and experiences collaborate to solve a common challenge – such as patient engagement – it creates a great context for innovation.

Through conversations with the advocacy community, we found that organizations are often unaware of their common goals, and in turn miss opportunities to collaborate. Last year, Sanofi took action, by establishing the first Partners in Patient Health Collaborate | Activate Innovation Challenge.  While we took inspiration from the successful Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge, this was the first challenge rooted in the idea that patient advocates working together can develop a deeper understanding of healthcare issues and magnify their collective impact.   By requiring teams to consist of 2 or more organizations, we sought to motivate advocacy groups and organizations to collaborate in new ways.

The response was immediate – we received 128 high quality ideas from 280 partnering organizations across the spectrum of health and disease, representing areas from rare diseases to diabetes; from prevention and immunization to treatment; from classic engagement approaches to emerging models such as m-health and collaborations between both traditional and non-traditional stakeholders.  The following panel of experts faced the difficult task of determining a winner and runner up from the four finalist solutions:

•  Josh Benner; President & CEO, RxAnte
•  Marc Boutin, Executive Vice President & COO, National Health Council
•  Donna R. Cryer, President and CEO, American Liver Foundation
•  Nancy Davenport-Ennis, CEO, Patient Advocate Foundation
•  Anne Whitaker, President, North America Pharmaceuticals, SANOFI US and executive sponsor of                               Partners in Patient Health

The winner of the $300,000 prize was: 

Registries for All Diseases:  This is a collaboration between the Genetic Alliance, CFIDS Association of America, National Psoriasis Foundation and the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  The registry targets patients and their families with rare diseases to join a virtual research network using patient-generated information to accelerate development of clinical trials. This team seeks to create a cross-disease, systems biology-based, crowdsourced, long tail, aggregated resource critical to advancing translational research on more than 1,000 diseases.

The runner-up, which received $100,000, was:

21st Century Brain TrustThis concept, which is a partnership between Geoffrey Beene Gives Back Alzheimer’s Initiative, American Health Assistance Foundation, and USAgainstAlzheimers Network, engages the public in brain health through a self-administered, clinical-grade cognitive testing app to help detect asymptomatic Alzheimer’s disease.

Beyond the finalists and the winning concept, I am hopeful that many of the other ideas will become realities for patients.  In the long run, we hope this is a process of collaboration that continues well beyond the duration of this challenge, and that this is merely a spark for advocates continuing to work together to find new ideas together to improve patient health.

To learn more about the Partners in Patient Health Collaborate | Activate Innovation Challenge and the other finalist ideas, visit the website at  For patient advocates, you can access the Sanofi Partners in Patient Health Digital Space at  You can also reach me directly at .

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