Debuting last week at the TED Conference was a new product by a pharma startup, which has largely flown under the radar. The company’s name may not be familiar, but you may have noticed its smartly designed products in drug stores around the country.
Founded in 2008, Help Remedies is a pharma startup trying to make waves in an industry dominated by Goliaths by re-imagining the over-the-counter (OTC) medication experience. The startup is doing so with a line of OTC products, or medicine kits, distinguished by minimalist, eco-friendly packaging and smart design in an effort to help reduce the overwhelming amount of product choices most consumers experience when perusing the medication aisles at their local pharmacies.
Last week, Help Remedies launched a new product called “Help, I Want to Save a Life”, an easy-to-use, DIY bone marrow donor registry kit, which is a more targeted supplement to your standard Band-Aid fix as well as the company’s already existing “Help I’ve Cut Myself” kit.
While Help typically targets minor ailments like headaches and stuffy noses, in this case the company decided to take on something larger. Richard Fine, Help CEO, explains, “Each year thousands of people with leukemia and other blood cancers need a bone marrow transplant to live, yet fewer than half receive one. This is a simple and smart idea: By making registration a part of what people are already doing, we think we can get more people to register, and in doing so, help save lives.”
Help has partnered with DKMS, the world’s largest bone marrow donor center, to process help I want to save a life kits, which contain sterile swabs and a postage-paid envelope. Using the kit is simple: The potential donor swabs the blood from their cut, and then mails the swabs in the envelope to DKMS to begin the donor registration process. The idea for the product was conceived by Graham Douglas, a copywriter at agency Droga5, after his brother, who was fighting leukemia, received a life-saving bone marrow transplant.
Douglas embarked on a decade-long search for a simpler way to encourage people to sign up as bone marrow donors — but found little success. Recently, in teaching a class at the Miami Ad School in Brooklyn, he challenged his students to come up with a smart, simple solution to finding matches for the some 10,000 people who need bone marrow transplants every year. Together, they decided that the best approach would be to (somehow) convince pharma companies to include blood swab registry kits inside Band-Aid boxes or adhesive bandages.
He pitched the idea to every pharma and adhesive bandage company he could think of, without making much headway, until he received a note from Help Remedies. The company thought that the idea represented a great opportunity to tackle something bigger.
Help CEO Richard Fine explained:
Each year thousands of people with leukemia and other blood cancers need a bone marrow transplant to live, yet fewer than half receive one. This is a simple and smart idea: By making registration a part of what people are already doing, we think we can get more people to register, and in doing so, help save lives.
After seeing the potential, which was really a no-brainer given the company’s existing product set, Help teamed up with Douglas to develop a kit, partnering with DKMS, the world’s largest bone marrow donor center, to establish the program. The team designed the “I Want To Save A Life” kits to be as simple, and easy-to-use as possible: They consist of just a few sterile swabs and a postage-paid envelope addressed to DKMS.
And thus, using the kit is easy. Say you’re shaving and you happen to knick yourself while doing so. There’s your opportunity. Users just swab the blood from their cut, drop it into the long-flap, double-sealed envelope (which makes sure the contents aren’t jeopardized before they reach their destination), and mail that sucker to DKMS to begin the registration process.
Therein lies the brilliance. Generally speaking, the friction inherent to the process that keeps people from donating is perception that they either don’t know how to do it (and aren’t told how) or that it costs too much (money, time, education) to do so. Now, for $4 Help Remedies is offering a kit of 16 bandages that can help stop all those pesky cuts — with a bone marrow donor registration kit to boot.
Plus, they’re involving some smart advertising for the campaign. All in all, it may not be application of technology in the traditional sense, but as Peter Thiel has been known to define technological progress as “doing more with less,” this is a great example of a simple, elegant solution to an important health problem.
For more on Help Remedies, check them out at home here.