Healthcare Innovation Engine at SciTech Scity selects cardiovascular health as 1st focus area

Leaders from RWJBarnabas Health, Bristol Myers Squibb, Sheba Medical Center, EY, Nokia Bell Labs and others convened to create blueprint for digital-first health care model

SciTech Scity always has been a place that represented the great potential for innovation and discovery in New Jersey. This week, it took a step closer to implementation.

Liberty Science Center on Thursday hosted the inaugural meeting of SciTech Scity’s Healthcare Innovation Engine — a gathering of more than two dozen health care leaders from industry, government and academia.

The group, which convened to identify specific medical challenges the Healthcare Innovation Engine will tackle, discuss possible prototype solutions and set the path forward for developing and testing candidate solutions, selected cardiovascular health as its first focus area.

Liberty Science Center CEO Paul Hoffman was thrilled by the selection.

“We have chosen a challenge in health care, specifically trying to move health care into people’s homes through digital technologies to detect diseases at an early stage, maybe even ward off diseases,” he said. “We’re going to start locally and try to do this here in Jersey City, with evidence-based ways of showing that this works.”

Alex Richter, executive director and head of SciTech Innovation Hub, is excited by the possibilities.

“Our first area of focus will be cardiovascular diseases, an area we see a huge societal need but also an exciting amount of innovation happening that our partners happen to know something about,” he said. “This is just the first focus area where we see real need, but we will look at others, too, with the idea we will find the most exciting technologies we think can deliver potential benefits in the here and now and then prove in our high-need communities here in Hudson County that it can work.”

The potential certainly is there.

Among other top leaders, the Healthcare Innovation Engine features representatives from RWJBarnabas Health, Bristol Myers Squibb, Sheba Medical Center, EY, Nokia Bell Labs and universities and government agencies from the state of New Jersey.

Commissioners from the New Jersey Department of Human Services and the Department of Health were also attendance in attendance at the closed-door session.

Ahead of the Engine’s next meeting, EY has assigned leads for each of the group’s work streams to execute the pilot program and begin performing a market scan for appropriate technologies that can address the cardiovascular focus area.

The work of the Healthcare Innovation Engine will be done in conjunction with startup companies, community and health organizations, hospitals, universities and other partners to test and validate specific products and solutions, as well as to conduct joint research efforts with the SciTech Scity academic ecosystem to collect the data needed to support broader adoption. LSC’s expansive university partner network includes Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, New York University, Princeton University, Rowan University and Stevens Institute of Technology.

Hudson County, where both LSC and Jersey City Medical Center are located, will be one of the primary testing grounds for SciTech Scity’s digital health pilot initiatives. It is the most densely populated county in the most densely populated state, and one of the most diverse in the entire U.S., with over 40% of residents being foreign-born, and 40 different first languages being spoken. Its inland communities are also one of the most economically disadvantaged, ranking particularly high on measures of health vulnerability, making it an ideal testing ground to address systemic challenges in the health care system.

Following the closed-door session of the Healthcare Innovation Engine, Dr. Kaitlan Baston, the state health commissioner, addressed an audience of over 100 leaders about the potential.

Taking inspiration from SciTech Scity, Baston highlighted the importance of innovation and transformation, specifically through partnerships that are going to make a change. She noted that health care innovators are the ones who will come up with the ideas, the medicines and technology to make an impactful difference, and government agencies are stepping into the equation to ensure these innovations are transferred on a larger scale to reach the community.