The IDSA Foundation in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (‘JLABS’) awarded $17,500 to this year’s three IDea Incubator finalists. As in previous years, finalists presented their ideas to the ID community, received feedback from industry peers and won funding to help advance their stand-out innovations.
New to the Foundation’s IDea Incubator competition this year – thanks to the Foundation’s collaboration with JLABS – was the opportunity to apply for BLUE KNIGHTTM residency at select JLABS locations, or virtually*, through the application process for the pitch-style competition.
Blue Knight is a collaboration between JLABS, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) designed with the aim to increase global health security by fostering innovative potential solutions that help us prepare for and respond to 21st century health threats, including emerging infectious diseases.
Innovative health care solutions come in a wide variety of forms and applications. Today we introduce Acclinate, a Blue Knight company at the new JLABS incubator hub in Washington, DC. Acclinate is taking an innovative approach with the aim to improve the diversity of clinical research.
We spoke with Co-founder and Chief Development Officer Tiffany Whitlow to learn more about Acclinate and their experience as a Blue Knight company.
Tell us a bit about Acclinate and how your HIPAA-compliant platform, e-DICT™, might impact health care and the field of infectious diseases.
Tiffany: We see our Acclinate partnership with BARDA as an important part of helping prepare for pandemics and other public health emergencies. While we know that BARDA has the scientific and technical expertise necessary to make all kinds of great ideas a reality, including clinical studies, we also know from experience that a diversity of participants is essential to the success of clinical studies and in building public confidence in the products that result from those clinical studies. This is where Acclinate really shines.
There are really two key pieces that work in tandem, the #NowIncluded community, and the e-DICT platform. #NowIncluded is our growing network of people of color, which we embrace to educate diverse individuals about health care disparities and the impacts of these disparities. Through education, story sharing and conversation, we aim to encourage participation in medical research so that the data and results truly reflect and protect all people.
At the same time, the #NowIncluded network data feeds into Acclinate’s HIPAA-compliant software platform, known as e-DICT™ (Enhanced Diversity in Clinical Trials). E-DICT uses predictive analytics and machine learning to identify the people who are most willing and likely to participate in clinical trials.
#NowIncluded does the front-end work of engaging and educating the community so they are empowered to participate. And, on the back end, we’ve built a platform that connects the industry with the people who want to be included as part of the solution.
Can you talk a little more about what makes Acclinate’s approach innovative?
Tiffany: What makes Acclinate different from other startups focused on racial and ethnic diversity in clinical research is our focus on community and relationship building. We will only move at the speed of trust. There is no shortcut to trust! We’re building the #NowIncluded network so that people – especially those who do not trust the system as it exists today – can be better informed and make better health decisions across the board. That includes being part of clinical research. There are different responses to different medications, and the only way to ensure medication is as effective as possible for minorities is to increase diversity in clinical trials.
If I had to wrap our solution into one word, it would be access. Access between individuals and industry. I’m not talking about just any individuals, but rather those who are not appropriately represented in today’s medical and pharmaceutical research.
For too long, the African American community has let their knowledge of the terrible things that happened in the past prevent them from getting involved today and taking control of their health care future. Health equity won’t happen unless the people who have not been represented step up and take their place.
It’s going to take this kind of grassroots effort to get people and families to really take on the idea that things have changed; that there are internal review boards and other measures in place to protect us; and that they have to be represented in research, not only for themselves but also for future generations. To make sure we’re ready for the next emergency, we have to start today.
I founded Acclinate with Delmonize “Del” Smith, PhD, who serves as CEO. What makes us unique is that Del and I represent the individuals we are trying to reach. This really helps position us to be the right people and the right company to help solve this problem. People are more receptive to solutions that are brought to them by people who look like them and who have similar historical and cultural experiences.
How did you learn about the Blue Knight opportunity, and how has it helped you progress your platform?
Tiffany: We actually heard through our connection with JLABS. They understood that our solution wasn’t only going to be beneficial for JLABS, and they steered us toward Blue Knight.
Our experience with Blue Knight has really been about tapping into their network’s subject matter expertise. We all have things we know about – I’m a community builder and Del has technical expertise. But that doesn’t mean we know how to scale our solution and how to align it with the industry. Blue Knight has the resources and the scientific and technical experts to work alongside us to help us align our solution with the industry.
Where do you see Acclinate and your platform in the years to come?
Tiffany: I would like to work with BARDA to truly scale our community and to be able to engage with and educate them in one central location. Ultimately, our big, audacious goal is to build a diverse community that is receptive. I’d like Acclinate to support the medical community and government entities, so that when the next natural disaster or pandemic that threatens our families and communities occurs, we have an army of people that are ready to be involved in the solution.
Why should others apply for Blue Knight residency?
Tiffany: Because there’s no better place to solve your problem. There is no better place to work alongside industry experts – and funders – to really help you accelerate and scale your solution.
Interested in learning more about the IDea incubator? Visit: idsafoundation.org/ideaincubator.
*Subject to the execution of an Award agreement with Johnson & Johnson Innovation, or any affiliate thereof, and other agreements and/or documentation as is necessary and required for residency at a JLABS physical or virtual “location” to become part of the JLABS and Blue Knight networks.
The information in this interview is either proprietary or licensed to Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC, its parent company or any or any subsidiaries or affiliate companies (“JJI and Johnson & Johnson ”) or is provided by or proprietary to third parties. In case of third-party information, please note that only those third parties that provided or own this information are responsible for it. JJI and Johnson & Johnson are not affiliated with companies participating in BLUE KNIGHT™, and by providing this information, JJI and Johnson & Johnson do not endorse these third parties or any of the information provided in this interview. This content is not intended to influence the use, sale, recommendation, or promotion of any products or services of JJI and Johnson & Johnson. JJI and Johnson & and Johnson are not responsible or liable for any actions you do or do not take in relation to this information and are not responsible for any use of this information by you. By providing the information in this interview, JJI and Johnson & Johnson do not make any representations, warranties, or assurances, express or implied, as to the content or the information presented in this interview and are not responsible for any use by or alterations of this information by you. JJI and Johnson & Johnson hereby expressly disclaim any and all guarantees, representations, warranties, or assurances and assumes no responsibility or liability, direct or indirect in relation to the information in this interview.