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Mayor Bowser Announces Awardees of QuickFire Challenge Aimed at Addressing Health Disparities

Wednesday, September 15, 2021
5 Innovators from Across the Globe Will Aim to Develop Ways to Help Achieve Health Equity in the District

(Washington, DC) – Today, at the fourth National Maternal & Infant Health Summit, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), alongside the Washington DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP) and in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC, announced the awardees of the Washington, DC Health Innovation QuickFire Challenge. In May 2021, innovators from across the globe were invited to submit potential science and technology solutions aiming to address racial and socioeconomic health disparities prevalent within the District of Columbia. Potential solutions had to include innovations that aim to transform patient outcomes in maternal mortality, cardiovascular diseases and systemic autoimmunity, and kidney diseases.

“Together, we can attack long-standing disparities in health outcomes and give all Washingtonians opportunities to live long, healthy and happy lives,” said Mayor Bowser. “We focus daily on providing equitable and effective access to health care across the District. With that mission in mind, we welcome strategic collaboration with partners from around the globe that can help us innovate and bring new solutions to our toughest challenges.”

Each awardee will receive $50,000 in grant funding and an invitation to reside at JLABS @ Washington, DC, a 32,000-square foot incubator located at the new Children’s National Research and Innovation Campus in NW DC, on the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center Campus. Awardees will also receive access to mentorship, resources, and programming from experts across the Johnson & Johnson family of companies.

“We are excited to welcome these five innovative early-stage companies to the District so they can participate in our dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem and contribute to important health solutions for our residents.” said Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio. “By locating within the Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JLABS incubator, these companies will be strategically located on the new Children's National Research and Innovation Campus, where they’ll have access to its thriving bio health ecosystem and the vibrancy of the entire Walter Reed redevelopment.”

The QuickFire Challenges are managed by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, with the goal to help address today’s greatest health care challenges. Applications were evaluated by an expert panel of reviewers and judges based on their ability to potentially transform patient outcomes in the three topic areas. Selection criteria included the uniqueness of the idea, potential impact on human health, the feasibility of the idea, thoroughness of approach, and identification of key resources and a plan to further the idea. For more information, go here.

Company Name Technology Area Description


Maternal mortality, addressing key causes of maternal mortality during and after pregnancy Mae is a culturally competent digital health platform connecting Black expectant mothers with critical resources with the aim to drive positive pregnancy outcomes, including a network of doulas for in-person and virtual support, weekly health and symptom tracking, and curated, culturally-specific educational content to address the unique needs of Black women.
Mammha Maternal mortality, addressing key causes of maternal mortality during and after pregnancy


Mammha is a web-enabled application that takes care of maternal mental health screening, referral, and care coordination, so that healthcare providers can take care of moms, and moms can take care of themselves and their families.


Vasculonics Inc Kidney diseases Vasculonics is a startup biotechnology company developing modulators of DDAH for the potential treatment of diabetic kidney disease, chronic kidney disease and acute kidney injury.


Paradox Immunotherapeutics Kidney diseases Paradox Immunotherapeutics develops immunotherapies aiming to combat protein misfolding diseases using a proven-successful antibody design platform. Their specialized antibodies aim to selectively target and remove disease-causing forms of proteins that cause organ dysfunction.


Tiny Cargo Cardiovascular diseases and systemic autoimmunity Tiny Cargo has innovated a method of isolating pure non-immunogenic bovine milk exosomes capable of being loaded with therapeutic peptidic drugs, avoiding first pass metabolism and peptidase breakdown in the blood, the primary barriers to peptide therapeutic translation.