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Reimagining Respiratory Protection

Challenge ended

Up to $100,000 in grants

Global Public Health



Boulder, Colorado-based Air99, led by Richard Gordon, is commercializing a patent-pending respirator that aims to fit, look and work better than conventional N99 pollution and flu masks. The aesthetically-striking design conforms better to the wearer’s face for a tighter seal, has more surface area for less breathing resistance and sports an adjustable harness for greater comfort.


Lung Cancer

The Reimagining Respiratory Protection QuickFire Challenge invites participants to come up with innovative solutions that help better protect the public from infectious agents and the threat of pandemics.

Respirators have remained largely unchanged for almost 50 years, despite major shortcomings identified within the current design and increasing threats of air pollution and airborne epidemics. In an age of disruption spurred by technological advances, it’s time to take action - to attempt to prevent needless suffering and save lives by improving respiratory safety.

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a component of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS, working with Janssen Research & Development, LLC, announce the Reimagining Respiratory Protection QuickFire Challenge. We’re calling on innovators to revolutionize respiratory protection, to submit novel ideas to better protect against the inhalation of harmful infectious agents. Is there a household item that could transform into a lifesaving face mask during an emergency? Could new textiles or wearable technologies be incorporated into face masks to improve performance?

Up to two innovators will be awarded up to $100,000 in grant funding, access to the Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS ecosystem, and support in developing their ideas from BARDA, to support health security products and technologies in biotechnology, life science research, and medical innovations as they navigate research, development, and regulatory pathways.

Why this Challenge matters

Johnson & Johnson Innovation has an ongoing commitment to global pandemic preparedness efforts, as one of the few innovative healthcare companies in the world today that is actively engaged across multiple disease areas and approaches that are central to this challenge. 

A 2016 United Nations reportconcluded that, “The world remains ill-prepared to address the threat posed by epidemics,” urging action ahead of future pandemics to avoid devastating consequences. Epidemics are not only possible, but probable, with four in recent memory including the Ebola virus in West Africa. The same UN study points to mathematical modelling by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which shows that a virulent strain of an airborne influenza virus could spread to all major global capitals within 60 days and kill more than 33 million people within 250 days. 

Traditional respiratory protective devices were designed for use in occupational settings and are prohibitively expensive for global adoption. Disposable versions, such as N95 respirators, are only available for adults, must be fit-tested to ensure proper functioning, and are uncomfortable to wear[1].

Just how big of a problem is this? Given an outbreak of a novel or newly emerging respiratory disease, respiratory protection may be a crucial measure to protect healthcare workers and the general public. Yet, demand for such products in influenza or other respiratory disease pandemic would far exceed worldwide supply.

Yet, decades have passed without a significant change to design. Together, we have the power to prevent needless suffering and start saving more lives by improving respiratory safety for everyone around the world.



[1]Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene Volume 9, 2012 - Issue 1 Discomfort and Exertion Associated with Prolonged Wear of Respiratory Protection in a Health Care Setting : 14 Dec 2011 Accessed online: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15459624.2012.635133

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What we’re looking for

Proposals containing or describing a path forward to meet any of 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. The ideal respiratory protection would have the following characteristics:

  • Suitable for all populations and ages 
  • Effective in preventing infection
  • Comfortable
  • Reusable a minimum of 5 times or extremely low cost and easy to produce
  • Simple, requires no special instructions or fit testing
  • Minimally interfering with breathing or other activities

Application process

Applicants will be required to submit a design. Solutions will be evaluated by a panel of reviewers and judges on their ability to meet the following criteria:

  • Novelty
  • Potential Impact
  • Feasibility/Practicality
  • Quality of Team and Resources
  • Plan for use of funds
  • Clarity of plan: Milestones & defined go/no go decisions

Rewards and Benefits

Up to two innovators will be awarded up to $100,000
  • Mentorship from BARDA and Johnson & Johnson Innovation experts
  • Access to the Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS ecosystem


October 30, 2018
Applications Open
February 15, 2019
Applications Deadline
Winner announcement



Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, was established to aid in securing our nation from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats, as well as from pandemic influenza (PI) and emerging infectious diseases (EID). BARDA supports the transition of medical countermeasures such as vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics from research through advanced development towards consideration for approval by the FDA and inclusion into the Strategic National Stockpile. BARDA’s support includes funding, technical assistance and core services. To date, BARDA has supported 42 FDA approvals for 38 unique products addressing CBRN, PI, and EID threats. 

Our mission is accomplished through successful public-private partnerships with industry to share risk, improve efficiency and accelerate development all while sustaining a marketplace that guarantees continued access to the vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and other medical products that are vital to our national health security.  For more information about BARDA, please visit https://www.phe.gov/about/bardaor follow @BARDA, @phegov. 

About the 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.


About Johnson & Johnson Innovation 




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; 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. JLABS provides the laboratories, expertise, education, tools and resources needed to help life science startups thrive, all with no strings attached. A Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center for Device Innovation at the Texas Medical Center (CDI @ TMC) has been established to accelerate the development of medical devices. For more information about Johnson & Johnson Innovation, 
please visit: 
www.jnjinnovation.com .


About Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS



Johnson & Johnson InnovationJLABS (JLABS) is a global network of open innovation ecosystems, enabling and empowering innovators across a broad healthcare spectrum including pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer and health tech sectors 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 also produces campaigns to seek out the best science called QuickFire Challenges. For more information, visit www.jlabs.jnjinnovation.com or follow @JLABS. 


About Johnson & Johnson

At Johnson & Johnson, we believe good health is the foundation of vibrant lives, thriving communities and forward progress. That’s why for more than 130 years, we have aimed to keep people well at every age and every stage of life. Today, as the world’s largest and most broadly-based healthcare company, we are committed to using our reach and size for good. We strive to improve access and affordability, create healthier communities, and put a healthy mind, body and environment within reach of everyone, everywhere. We are blending our heart, science and ingenuity to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity.


What if I’m having trouble accessing the portal/website?

Make sure your browser is up to date and accepting cookies. You can contact customer service at https://jnj-quickfire.smapply.io if you are having technical difficulties as well.

Can I submit supporting documents (for example a video) as part of my application?

You will have the opportunity and are encouraged to upload supporting materials such as slide decks, research papers, and videos as part of your application. You may submit a video along with your typed responses. Maximum length is 2 minutes.

Is it okay if some of the information I submit is confidential?

Do not submit confidential information. Only non-confidential information should be submitted and anything you submit will be treated as non-confidential.

What happens with IP (Intellectual Property)?

As this is a no strings attached arrangement, JLABS does not acquire any IP.  Any IP creation and/or protection remains the sole responsibility of the inventors.

Is a patent required to apply?

No, a patent is not required to apply.  However, you should not submit any information that you wish to keep confidential or that may negatively impact upon the future patentability of your invention.

What kind of science / technology is appropriate for the Challenges?

We encourage all to apply. Find out more about what areas we desire to explore here: https://www.jnjinnovation.com/partnering

Who is eligible to apply?

Each Challenge has its own terms & conditions that can be found prior to filling out the application.

Who can I contact if I have questions about the Challenges or the application process?

Please contact [email protected] with any questions.

Where do I apply? And do I have to complete the application in one sitting?

You can setup an account at https://jnj-quickfire.smapply.io. You are able to save your work and log back in to finish at a later time if needed.