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COPD Crowdshaped: Advancing Ideation in the Pharmaceutical Sector

By: Novartis Pharmaceuticals
With support from: Health Unlimited

Summary of work

Imagine having to fight for your every breath. Your world becomes smaller and, one day at a time, you become more isolated. This is life with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for 210 million people globally. But imagine if innovation could help change that. In June 2015, Health Unlimited, Novartis Pharmaceuticals and the COPD Foundation gathered 50 of the world’s most progressive thinkers to help address the global challenge of COPD. COPD Crowdshaped: two days, 50 visionaries, one cause.

This was the pharma industry’s first open-innovation event to involve non-HCPs in a live attempt to solve a health-related problem. There were no pre-defined outputs and no IP owned by the agency or the client. Business leaders, technologists, actors, journalists, educators, engineers and data scientists from companies and institutions including Boeing, Google, 23&Me, Qualcomm Life and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology attended with one thing in common - a commitment to improving lives of patients.

In reference to ROI, as a direct output of COPD Crowdshaped, multiple products are in last-stage testing with one significant innovation already in market. By bringing together brilliant minds who approach problem-solving differently from the pharma norm, COPD Crowdshaped is generating genuine person-led solutions that could go on to change the status quo for millions with COPD.

For Novartis, COPD Crowdshaped has demonstrated how non-traditional approaches can deliver new forms of innovation for the organisation. Our activity helped Novartis go beyond traditional innovation - the discovery and development of new medicines - to develop different behaviours, fresh approaches and new ways of engaging a wider section of the global community.

Judges' comments

This is a truly innovative programme from Novartis that is nothing short of inspirational – they put the COPD patient at the centre, brought together individuals from very different industries and skill areas, excluded more traditional stakeholders such as the respiratory physicians and stepped back to allow creativity and innovation to blossom.  Several initiatives have followed and more are underway.  Congratulations to Novartis for investing in this initiative which could be replicated across other disease areas in the future.


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Key dates

Entry deadline 26 August 2021
Extended entry deadline 2 September 2021*
*additional fee applies
Judging Day 1 October 2021
Company of the Year Interviews 22 October 2021
PMEA Event 24 November 2021