Kolaleh Eskandanian

Kolaleh Eskandanian, Ph.D., M.B.A., P.M.P. is Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer at Children’s National Hospital. In this capacity, she oversees the Office of Innovation Ventures, the Sheikh Zayed Institute’s R&D operations, and has a leadership role in the development of the Children’s National Research and Innovation Campus (opening 2020).

She is also the executive director of the FDA-funded National Capital Consortium for Pediatric Device Innovation (NCC-PDI), focused on accelerating the path to market for pediatric devices. Eskandanian works with a large network of small and large businesses, nonprofits and government agencies –addressing the unmet medical needs of children. She is the producer of an annual innovation competition that supports small businesses who demonstrate the ability to address a significant medical need in the pediatric space.

For start-ups working in paediatrics, competitions can offer funding, exposure and invaluable access to mentorship. Despite advances in medical technology, the fruits of progress are not shared equally across age groups. One of the biggest challenges we see in the paediatric domain, and especially among those younger in the age spectrum, is the lack of available life-saving medical devices. Children are not getting the benefit of many health care innovations because of the mistaken perception that children are generally healthy and thus the small market does not justify the financial return on investment. This can mean some young patients miss out on life-saving interventions while others are treated using adult devices adapted by their clinicians. Medtech start-ups have the ideas and courage to reverse this trend. I know this because I have had the pleasure of meeting dozens of small companies with big ideas for children’s health. For many young companies working on medical technologies, the relative lack of innovation in paediatric and neonatal care is an opportunity. However, they face a number of barriers that make turning their ideas into products a real challenge. Some of these problems are common to all start-ups – limited experience and a lack of funding. In my opinion, pitch competitions can play a vital role. A high-profile competition, hosted by prestigious institutions who collaborate to support paediatric innovation, can be a priceless platform for early-stage firms looking to make an impact. Competitions connect entrepreneurs with experts and mentors. They are an opportunity to win prize money and attract investors. The attention from media and industry influencers can also provide new momentum and, perhaps most importantly, competitions are a way to get new ideas out there. Innovation can offer significant benefits to young patients, particularly in fast-moving areas of research. This includes emerging infectious...