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Finalists Named in Inaugural Health and Life Sciences Challenge

By Marco J. Barber Grossi, Crimson Staff Writer

Projects ranging in focus from mental health care for children in India to sexually transmitted infection prevention are among the eight finalist proposals for the inaugural Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge, Harvard University announced Thursday.

Alumni, faculty, and industry expert judges chose the health and life sciences finalists from a pool of 54 applications. Each team will receive $5,000, the guidance of an expert in the field, and space at the Harvard Innovation Lab to continue to develop their projects.

Applications were submitted in one of four categories—the redesign of health delivery, changing behavior, computation in data and analysis in health, and stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

“At the i-lab, we resource any student with an idea, but it’s particularly exciting to support student’s personal and professional aspirations to make a difference in the world around them,” i-lab Managing Director Gordon S. Jones wrote in an email.

Shana L. Hoffman is the leader of the finalist team CareSolver, which made an online platform that creates customized care plans for the elderly, instructing family and informal caregivers on ways to improve the health and wellness of older loved ones living at home.

Hoffman, a student at Harvard Business School, said she appreciated the diversity of the Challenge’s categories, noting that school funding is usually targeted at scientific research in a laboratory.

Other finalist proposals include a mobile application that allows users to share their sexual health information in an attempt to prevent sexually transmitted infections and an organization seeking to improve the pre-hospital system in Bangladesh by connecting users to first-aid and ambulance services.

The Health and Life Sciences Challenge is the last of the three challenges hosted by the i-lab this year to announce its finalists. The President’s Challenge for social entrepreneurship and the Deans’ Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge announced their finalists March 25 and April 1, respectively.

All three challenges fit the mission of the i-lab because they combine entrepreneurship with social, cultural, or scientific innovation, wrote Jones.

Modified proposals for the three challenges will be presented to alumni, industry experts, and faculty judges in early May. The challenge winners and runners-up will be announced later that month.

President’s Challenge winners and runners-up will split $100,000 in prize money, while each Deans’ Challenge will distribute a $75,000 purse. Harvard will award the prize’s recipients residence and mentoring at the i-lab throughout the summer.

“The Challenges and i-lab are part of an institutional effort to resource students across the University so they can take their ideas as far as they can go,” Jones wrote.

Finalist members across the three challenges said they appreciated the opportunity provided by the resources at the i-lab to take their projects to the next level.

“It was incredibly flattering and humbling...being recognized for an idea that really has the potential to have big impacts,” said Andrew P. Leonard, a student at the Graduate School of Design and another team leader.

—Staff writer Marco J. Barber Grossi can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @marco_jbg.

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