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IBD Stress Test QuickFire Challenge

IBD Stress Test

Challenge ended

Up to $50,000 in grants + Access to mentorship

Consumer Health
Digital Health


The University of Oxford


The Translational Gastroenterology Unit (TGU) at the University of Oxford aims to blend basic science with clinical studies to improve care, find the cause, and develop a cure for diseases of the GI tract. Their work aims to define better markers that predict how patients respond to treatments for inflammatory bowel disease. They leverage IBD genetics studies performed in the UK as well as the community of researchers studying genetic risks for ulcerative colitis to perform large association studies followed by functional analyses to assess how best to use virology data.


IBD Stress Test QuickFire Challenge

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is characterized by chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Symptoms can include severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, and weight loss. IBD affects over 1.6 million people in the USA according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, and according to the National Reviews Gastroenterol & Hepatology, there are currently 2.5 million sufferers in Europe and rising incidences in newly industrialized countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. Diagnosis is challenging and often delayed, leading many patients to progress to advanced stages of the disease, requiring surgery. Increasing evidence indicates that genetic and microbial factors, combined with environmental and lifestyle factors including infections, antibiotics, and diet, likely impact the development of IBD.

What if we could better diagnose, treat, and prevent IBD by using modern technology to evaluate an individual’s state of immune and gastrointestinal health?

There is a growing hypothesis that health and disease are characterized by a person’s ability to adapt to a diverse collection of stimuli or “stressors”. Therefore, it might be possible to predict one’s risk of disease by evaluating responses to stressors. Assessing an individual’s response to stressors could reveal early signs of disease that would not be identifiable while an individual is at rest. Examples include the cardiac stress test, which measures the heart’s response to external stress induced by exercise to diagnose heart disease, and the glucose tolerance test, which measures the body’s ability to process sugar after ingesting a glucose solution to diagnose gestational diabetes. Eventually we may be able to optimize health by routinely measuring responses to stressors and stimuli that people experience on an everyday basis!

The goal of this QuickFire Challenge is to evaluate immune and gastrointestinal health and ultimately predict risk of IBD by assessing the response of the immune and gastrointestinal systems to challenges with stressors. If you have an idea for a product, technology, or methodology to investigate the response of the human immune and gastrointestinal systems to stressors, Janssen Research & Development is awarding up to $50,000 with possible mentorship opportunities to help make that idea a reality.


Please note: These are preferred and not required criteria.

Proposals containing the following criteria are preferred, but are not required. Please keep in mind that no idea is too big or too early for consideration. Applications that clearly describe a concept or path forward to achieve these goals will also be considered during evaluation. 

Products, technologies, and methodologies evaluated in-human or using human samples (e.g., ex vivo) are preferred. However, in vivo, in vitro, or other types of model systems are also encouraged. Proposals that demonstrate proof-of-concept are preferred. For example, proposals demonstrating that the response to stressors correlates with specific phenotypes, can differentiate between varying states of health, or can predict risk of disease.


Please note that the following are meant to represent examples only. If you have an idea that falls outside of these examples, we strongly encourage you to apply!


Examples of stressors or stimuli that may be evaluated include but are not limited to:

  • Dietary Factors: There is increasing evidence that diet might contribute to the development of IBD. Proposals for evaluating the ability of the human immune and gastrointestinal systems to adapt upon challenge with dietary stimuli are sought.
  • Infection or Microbial Factors: Evidence suggests that viral or bacterial infections and exposure to microbial stimuli might represent triggers for IBD. Proposals for evaluating the ability of the human immune and gastrointestinal systems to adapt upon challenge with infection or microbial stimuli are sought.
  • Other Environmental or Lifestyle Factors: Proposals for evaluating the response of the human immune and gastrointestinal systems to other types of stressors, for example, specific environmental or lifestyle stimuli associated with IBD, are also strongly encouraged.

Responses to Stressors/Stimuli

Examples of responses to stressors or stimuli that may be evaluated include but are not limited to:

  • Measures of intestinal permeability and gut barrier health
  • Innate immune system function, including trained immunity
  • Measures of immune tolerance, including oral tolerance
  • Cellular stress responses
  • T-cell exhaustion

Proposals for evaluating other types of responses relevant to IBD are highly encouraged.

Why this challenge matters


A significant need exists to accurately predict who is at high risk of developing IBD so that safe interventions can be provided to prevent progression to clinical disease. Janssen Research & Development and Johnson & Johnson Innovation have a successful history in creating new markets, delivering breakthrough innovation and establishing strong partnerships built on a shared vision. We believe a good idea can come from anywhere, and it’s our goal to break through the noise of the crowded landscape and to accelerate the development of novel technologies, treatments, and pharmaceuticals to provide solutions to patients.

Application Process


Proposals should include: (1) definition of the stressor(s) to be applied; (2) definition of the human population or model system used to evaluate the response to the stressor; and (3) definition of how the response will be measured.

The goal of this QuickFire Challenge is to employ response to stressors in order to evaluate immune and gastrointestinal health and to ultimately predict risk of IBD. Solutions will be evaluated by a panel of reviewers and judges on their ability to meet the following criteria:
• Potential to impact healthcare outcomes in a strategic area of interest
• Uniqueness of solution & level of competition in current market
• Quality & feasibility of technology
• Team credibility & capabilities
• Clarity of plan: Milestones & defined go/no go decisions

Applications Open
Applications Deadline
Judging Commences
November 2018
Winners Announced


Up to $50,000
  • Up to $50,000 in grants
  • Access to a network of Johnson & Johnson Innovation experts

Submit your idea today!

Don’t miss the deadline


About Janssen Pharmaceutical, Companies of Johnson & Johnson

At the Janssen Pharmaceutical, Companies of Johnson & Johnson, we are working to create a world without disease. Transforming lives by finding new and better ways to prevent, intercept, treat and cure disease inspires us. We bring together the best minds and pursue the most promising science.

We are Janssen. We collaborate with the world for the health of everyone in it. Learn more at www.janssen.com. Follow us at @JanssenGlobal.



About Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS

Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC focuses on accelerating all stages of innovation worldwide and forming collaborations between entrepreneurs and Johnson & Johnson’s global healthcare businesses. Johnson & Johnson Innovation provides scientists, entrepreneurs and emerging companies with one stop access to science and technology experts who can facilitate collaborations across the pharmaceutical, medical device and consumer companies of Johnson & Johnson. Under the Johnson & Johnson Innovation umbrella of businesses, we connect with innovators through our regional Innovation Centers, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS (JLABS), Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. and our Business Development teams to create customized deals and novel collaborations that speed development of innovations to solve unmet needs in patients. For more information, visit www.jnjinnovation.com or follow @JNJInnovation.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS (JLABS) is a global network of open innovation ecosystems, enabling and empowering innovators to create and accelerate the delivery of life-saving, life-enhancing health and wellness solutions to patients around the world. JLABS achieves this by providing the optimal environment for emerging companies to catalyze growth and optimize their research and development by opening them to vital industry connections, delivering entrepreneurial programs and providing a capital-efficient, flexible platform where they can transform the scientific discoveries of today into the breakthrough healthcare solutions of tomorrow.  At JLABS we value great ideas and are passionate about removing obstacles to success to help innovators unleash the potential of their early scientific discoveries.  JLABS is a no-strings-attached model, which means entrepreneurs are free to develop their science while holding on to their intellectual property.  JLABS is open to entrepreneurs across a broad healthcare spectrum including pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer and digital health sectors.

JLABS currently has locations in innovation hot spots across the world and produces entrepreneurial programs and campaigns to seek out the best science, like the QuickFire Challenges around the globe. The JLABS flagship opened in 2012 in San Diego at Janssen's West Coast Research Center, and since then, has established two locations in San Francisco - one through a collaboration with the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) and a second standalone facility in South San Francisco.  JLABS is also located in Boston through a collaboration with LabCentral, in Lowell, Massachusetts through a collaboration with UMass, in Houston through a collaboration with the Texas Medical Center (TMC), in Toronto through a collaboration with the Ontario Government and the University of Toronto. New JLABS in NYC and Shanghai have been announced, and in February 2018, the Belgium-based JLINX incubator began transitioning into a JLABS, making this the first JLABS in Europe.  For more information about JLABS, please visit www.jlabs.jnjinnovation.com.