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Innovation
3 Entrepreneurs, 3 Big Ideas: Inventions That Can Help Give Babies a Healthier Start in Life
Imagine: a diaper that can detect type 1 diabetes, an app that acts as a digital midwife and a baby box that can help improve infant sleep. It’s all possible, thanks to these visionaries.

Recently, the rest of the world became privy to a Finnish tradition that has been helping newborns get a healthier start in life for 80 years.

The Finnish Baby Box program, run by the country's government, sends boxes packed with free health essentials to newborns and their parents, including diapers, warm clothing and a safe place for the babies to sleep—the box itself. In exchange, the parents must attend at least one prenatal clinic before the fourth month of pregnancy.

The result? Since the program launched, the country’s infant mortality rate has plummeted from 65 in every 1,000 live births in the 1930s to just 2.5 per 1,000 today—one of the lowest rates in the world.

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Left to right: Challenge winners John Konsin, Co-founder and CEO, Prapela; David Howarth, CEO, iDE8; and Barbara Haage, COO, CallMidwife.com

With this success in mind, Janssen Research & Development and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, in collaboration with The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, Tekes–the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, created the Next-Gen Baby Box QuickFire Challenge to help find “the Baby Box of the future.”

Entrepreneurs, students, researchers and startup companies were encouraged to submit novel ideas designed to help promote child health, detect childhood disease earlier and facilitate healthy parenting.

The challenge received 135 applicants from across the world. On November 30, seven finalists presented their ideas to a panel of judges during Slush, one of Europe’s leading startup and technology events in Helsinki, Finland. Three winners were selected at the event, including grand prizewinner Prapela LLC.

The three companies will receive a combined total of $250,000 in funding and mentoring to help develop and market their ventures.

The competition was part of Janssen’s larger mission to create a world without disease, which aims to shift the focus from disease treatment to maintaining health through prevention, interception and possible cures.

Meet the winning inventors and hear more about their game-changing innovations.

A Simple Way to Detect Diabetes
The iDE8 Ltd. team has created a multiuse diagnostic diaper that can detect the presence of sugar and associated ketones within a baby or toddler’s urine, allowing for the early detection of type 1 diabetes and diabetic ketoacidosis. David Howarth, CEO of iDE8, says the idea came to him at 3 AM—as he was changing his 5-month-old daughter’s diaper.



A Modern Way to Call the Midwife
CallMidwife.com is a web-based and mobile app that allows expectant parents to monitor their pregnancy, look up various complaints and access home treatment guidelines.

“We put a medical expert in your phone that you can access anytime, anywhere, to get reliable information that’s personalized for you,” says Barbara Haage, COO, who drew on her background in social work to help create the service. “We want to offer women and their families safety during pregnancy, birth and childcare—no matter who you are or what your social status is.”



A New Way to Help Your Baby Sleep
Co-founder and CEO John Konsin and the team at Prapela LLC created a vibration technology that helps to improve babies’ breathing rhythm and relaxation during sleep.

“We’re helping to solve infant sleep issues,” says Konsin, a father of three sons who all faced sleep challenges early in life. “Healthier sleep can improve how children develop cognitively, behaviorally and physically. We’re focused on providing an affordable means of improving infant sleep that will result in healthier children worldwide.”


Want to Take Your Healthcare Innovation to NYC?
Enter your company into the JLABS @ NYC QuickFire Challenge and you could win a one-year residency at the new JLABS @ NYC.