Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in women around the world. It affects over 500,000 women and results in nearly 275,000 deaths globally.
It’s a terrible illness that is also mostly preventable and curable if caught early enough through regular, standard Pap tests and screening for the human papillomavirus.
Preventable when women receive proper screening, cervical cancer kills 4,000 women every year in the U.S. Now, Genentech, the former Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers portfolio company, is going back to its roots to look for startups that will help with prevention.
The South San Francisco-based biotechnology company began evaluating ideas about how to reach out to women at greatest risk for cervical cancer in 2014. But the company hit upon the idea of a competition to enlist the help of startups, only earlier in January, which is when the decision to create The Quest Award was made.
The winning entry in the competition will receive $50,000 because that’s a number the company felt could help both new and established startups.
According to a spokesperson, “For newer startups this funding will ideally support the development of a prototype or initiate a pilot. For startups that are established, this support could a startup already operating in this area.”
In addition to financial assistance, Genentech is providing a year of mentorship to further develop the winning startup’s ideas, the company said. What is certain is that the biotech giant will not take an equity component in the winners, the spokesperson said.
This isn’t the only way that Genentech is engaging with the startup community. While details are under wraps the company does have over 10 pilots with digital health startups working on sensing technologies, patient engagement, mobile technologies, and the omnipresent buzzword of the 20-teens, data intelligence.
Genentech is also running another competition related to cervical cancer. They’ve planted a flag for data scientists to find answers in two million de-identified patient claims data records on Kaggle.