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Idea to Innovation


JCI Joins JLABS at Hack Belgium, Leading to New Digital Health Project

Hack_Belgium1In an effort to source new ideas for innovation in clinical trials, Janssen Clinical Innovation (JCI) did something it’s never done before: attend Hack Belgium. Earlier this year, the JCI team took part in the intense three-day Hack Belgium 2019 event, where JLABS @ BE sponsored the “Sick No More” healthcare track, and met with local leading experts and passionate potential players to brainstorm innovative ways to extend the reach of research opportunities, especially among Europe’s aging population living in remote areas.

Since then – in just over six months:

  • JCI made the connection with an existing public/private partnership project funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT);
  • the project is moving forward to develop a speech-based cognitive assessment “telemedicine” tool;
  • plans are well underway for feasibility studies for two remote use cases (phone and videoconferencing); and
  • the original “Hack idea” that involved the use of a telemedicine-equipped mobile van was incorporated into the Deep Speech Analysis for Cognitive Assessment in Clinical Trials (DeepSpA) project that just made its debut as a poster presentation at the recent Janssen R&D Symposium.  

Identified Need in NiceHack_Belgium2

In countries like France, with an aging population on the rise and a “medical deserts” problem (i.e., a shortage of doctors in isolated areas, limited access to diagnosis and care, and often hours of travel time for patients seeking treatment), enrolling patients in clinical trials has proven difficult. Equally challenging is preventing enrolled subjects from dropping out of the study.

“The solution is to connect expert clinicians remotely to patients or clinical trial participants in remote areas,” said Kai Langel, Director, JCI. “We can do that through a project like this, which will develop a speech-based cognitive assessment battery that can be fully automated and operationalized through a web-based platform.” According to Kai, the telemedicine tool will be empowered by speech and facial expression analysis over a secure server, and the feasibility study will be conducted in an isolated city three hours from Nice, France, where there is an identified need for remote cognitive and psychological assessment.

“This telemedicine-based solution is also of interest for further research and use at Janssen, supporting our goals of increasing diversity in trial participation and research access for participants in remote areas,” said Kai. “Early results from ADeepSpA are promising and proactive planning to find use cases in the Janssen portfolio is underway.

“Hack Belgium was a great opportunity to connect and begin to build relationships with developers, entrepreneurs and people who are passionate about making clinical trials better for patients,” added Cosmin Popa, Innovation Activation Manager, JLABS @ BE. “Our goal in getting involved in Hack Belgium was to identify early-stage innovation and position Janssen and JLABS as valuable business partners who take hackathon ideation seriously. It was an exciting event, and the first hackathon we got involved in as JLABS in Europe.”


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Hack Belgium Facts & Figures


  • Hack Belgium is “a place where you can bring your ideas, your motivation and to make a project of your own and this project can really change the society we live in. ‘Just getting started’ is what it’s all about.”  
  • At Hack Belgium, a “whole bunch of challenges are presented that matter, that represent the real needs of society and the market – and people can discover ideas they really feel passionate about.”
  • At Hack Belgium, what you will get is “a lot of new skills, get a lot of knowledge, meet a lot of people, talk with a lot of experts, to at the end create a project that’s viable.”
  • Hack Belgium 2019 Fast Facts:
    • 3 days
    • 12 societal themes
    • 80+ teams
    • 1,000 people

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