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Hundreds Celebrate FastForward 1812’s Promise to Support Innovation

Hundreds Celebrate FastForward 1812’s Promise to Support Innovation

On April 26, hundreds of people came to East Baltimore for the grand opening of FastForward 1812. The event, billed as a celebration of a new physical space to support innovation, was just as much a celebration of the innovation hub’s promise to impact the future of Johns Hopkins, the city of Baltimore and people around the world by helping bring life-changing technologies to market.

“[This space is] a physical manifestation of our commitment to bringing together the necessary ingredients of innovation,” Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels said during the celebration’s opening remarks.

President Ronald J. Daniels

Daniels added that FastForward, a coordinated suite of resources designed to efficiently move technologies from startup to marketplace, acts as “a launching pad for entrepreneurs from not only Hopkins but also, in fact, from across Baltimore.”

In addition to 8,000 square feet of office, co-working and meeting space, FastForward 1812 features 15,000 square feet of dedicated and shared wet lab space, a much-needed startup resource in Baltimore. But the specs of the innovation hub don’t tell a complete story.

“We’re providing more than physical space,” said the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Executive Vice President Dr. Landon King at the grand opening. “We’re providing a network of mentors and other resources to move ideas forward.”

Dr. Landon King

The myriad resources FastForward 1812 provides—including its affordable space, mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders, legal and accounting support, funding opportunities and access to Johns Hopkins’ core facilities—are designed to help startups reach their potential, set roots in Baltimore and, eventually, help establish the city as a leading space for innovation.

For too long, Baltimore lacked the resources startups needed to develop into successful businesses. This lack of support forced them to move their promising businesses to more fertile innovation ecosystems. Now Baltimore has a number of accelerators located around the city, including three FastForward innovation hubs.

Like the leaders at Johns Hopkins, Pugh foresees a future where the startups supported within FastForward will move into their own offices and become a part of Baltimore’s economy.

(Left to right) Dr. Jennifer Elisseeff, Dr. Landon King, Pres. Ronald J. Daniels, Mayor Catherine Pugh and Christy Wyskiel

“These kinds of tech and biotech companies will create new jobs and help bring manufacturing back to Baltimore,” Pugh said. “They will start here, grow here and be part of the city’s economy.”

“When you think about the innovation and the technology and the biotech companies that can grow right here … it doesn’t get much better than that,” she said before officially opening the innovation hub by lighting a sign with the words “Start Here.”

Want to learn more about FastForward 1812? Click here!

 

Meet the Entrepreneur

Meet the Entrepreneur: Amanda Allen Discusses emocha, Baltimore and…

Meet the Entrepreneur: Amanda Allen Discusses emocha, Baltimore and FastForward

Emocha Mobile Health was one of the first tenants at FastForward East when it opened in 2015. Two years later, it became one of the first startups to move into Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ newest innovation hub, FastForward 1812.

As a FastForward tenant, emocha has added clients from Baltimore to Australia for its mobile health platform that connects patients to health care providers and helps solve problems such as medication adherence, linkage to care and patient engagement.

It played a key role in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s monitoring of Ebola during the outbreak in 2015. This past August, emocha secured contracts for its medication adherence mobile application from three California counties that have some of the highest rates of latent tuberculosis in the country. They’re now using the same technology for hepatitis C and opioid addiction therapy.

Below, Amanda Allen, emocha’s design lead, discusses the startup’s mission, recent successes, support from FastForward and the strengths of Baltimore (which includes delicious pizza).

In five words, what does your company do?

Mobile health for public health.

If I had a few more words I’d say:

“We help public health resources go further. Using technology that strengthens patient-provider relationships, we reduce costs and improve health outcomes.”

What’s one success that emocha has had that you’re particularly proud of?

We started working with Puerto Rico’s Tuberculosis Control Program a few months ago, and their feedback has been extremely positive. I hung up a direct quote in our office: “This has been a god send and has changed the way we operate. You guys are at the forefront of how technology improves health care.”

For context, health departments have a mandate to watch patients take every dose of their TB medication. Every day, for a six- to nine-month period, health officials drive to patients, or ask patients to come into the clinic. This is called Directly Observed Therapy (DOT). While this method is highly effective, it’s extremely burdensome and expensive to scale.

Emocha offers a digital solution. A mobile app allows a patient to video themselves taking their medication at their convenience. Health care workers then log into emocha on their desktop and review videos at their convenience, dramatically reducing the time and money that is poured into observing each patient in-person. This solution is a big deal for Puerto Rico because 30 to 50 percent of their active TB population is unable to access care and dies each year. This situation is compounded by Puerto Rico’s debt, which is currently over $70 billion.

What are emocha’s goals, and how do you plan to reach them?

Each product has a specific goal (increase medication adherence, monitor an outbreak, link more patients to care in less time), but at a high level, we aim to create technology that solves real problems in public health. We do this through a hybrid of research, design and engineering.

I think one of the reasons we’re successful is because we hold the user experience paramount. As design lead, I try to make sure every interface is easy to understand and enjoyable to use, regardless of a user’s age, location and technical savvy. We do this by engaging patients, healthcare workers and providers early on in the design process. One-on-one interviews, focus groups, direct observation and other interactive design exercises ensure we’re solving the right problem in the right way.

In terms of startups and innovation, what’s one thing that separates Baltimore from other tech hotbeds?

Baltimore is a mid-sized city that offers a diverse range of neighborhoods and people. I rarely want to leave, but when I do, I like having access to larger nearby cities. On top of this, cost of living is fairly inexpensive. Baltimore is a hidden gem, my only fear is that word gets out.

What has been the best part about the FastForward 1812 innovation hub so far?

Every product we develop has a clinical champion that guides our understanding of the problem we’re trying to solve. FastForward’s location within the medical campus allows us to meet more often with the world-renowned experts we work with in HIV, Hepatitis C and Tuberculosis.

I also enjoy the physical co-working space. I usually start my day in our office, but work in huddle spaces and phone booths the rest of the day for a change of scenery.

How has FastForward/Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures helped emocha grow?

Emocha was invented by clinicians and researchers at Johns Hopkins in 2008, and Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures helped us license the technology in 2013. They also provided access to the DreamIT Health Accelerator which was instrumental to our start.

Since then, they’ve continued to make introductions to customers and thought leaders in healthcare.

What book are you currently reading?

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee

What innovator do you look up to? Why?

I think I’m most impressed by social entrepreneurs getting by through sheer will power, hustle. They’re usually determined to solve a problem their deeply connected to.

I’ve met two recently who are a part of FastForward’s Social Innovation Lab. Brittany Young is providing a pipeline from dirt biking to STEM jobs through her nonprofit B360, and Shantell Roberts is working to eliminate SIDS by providing an innovative safe sleep solution called a Portable Alternative Cribs (P.A.C.s). Watch out for them.

It’s after a long day of work, and you don’t feel like cooking. What is your go-to Baltimore restaurant?

Lebanese Taverna. But if I’m extra lazy, I order chicken tiki marsala pizza from Charles Restaurant and Carry Out. Look it up. You’re welcome.

What’s your favorite non-work-related thing to do in Baltimore?

I joke that hobbies are for people who don’t like their jobs. But I do enjoy Baltimore’s vibrant bar scene. I like to bring everyone I love together at brunch as often as possible.

Want to learn more about FastForward 1812? Click here.

 

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