February 18, 2013

Obesity Solutions offers funding for ideas that fight obesity

Posted: February 18, 2013
Dr. James Levine speaks at the kickoff event for the Obesity Solutions Funding Challenge.

Entrepreneurs invited to submit entries through March 3

The Obesity Solutions Funding Challenge officially kicked off Jan. 31 with an event that invited all those who are interested in combating obesity to come together and discuss potential solutions.  

The event took place in Changemaker Central and came on the heels of a two-week mini-challenge that encouraged participants to get a jump-start on their obesity ideas. The winner of the mini-challenge was announced at the kick-off event and will receive an hour-long consulting session with James A. Levine, the co-director of Obesity Solutions and leading Mayo Clinic endocrinologist.  

The winning entry for the mini-challenge was submitted by Gregory Yanke, whose idea addresses the struggle that residents of lower-income neighborhoods face when trying to access high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables. Many of these people don’t have reliable transportation to get to grocery stores, and often must buy their meals from fast food restaurants or gas stations.  

Yanke suggested a program where food trucks would bring mobile farmers markets to underserved areas, allowing those residents access to fresh, locally grown produce at an affordable price.

Alexandra Brewis Slade, director of operations for Obesity Solutions, notes that ideas like Yanke’s are just what Obesity Solutions hopes to attract with their Funding Challenge. 

"While we know some of the solutions might be technological in nature – such as apps or related to social media – many good solutions are also to be found outside this realm,” she said.  

“One of my favorite low-tech solutions is the so-called ‘walking school bus,’ where parents and schoolchildren set off to and from school walking together as a group," she added. "It is such a simple idea that not only creates health, but also saves money and the environment at the same time. A good solution can come in many forms, and just has to be an inventive or clever way to deal with the problem."

Along with the announcement of the mini-challenge winner, the kick-off event included a presentation by Levine. He described the process by which research and ideas can be translated into real-world products and solutions. He notes that Obesity Solutions, in particular, is able to help with this process.

“By supporting new business development in this arena, we can help build effective, legitimate and sustainable obesity solutions by providing expert guidance through the development process, as well as essential funding to get ideas from the planning stage to the prototype or execution stage,” Levine says. “The winners of the Funding Challenge will have access to all these resources, allowing the team to develop their ideas into a product that can be disseminated and scaled.”  

The Obesity Solutions Funding Challenge is an opportunity for anyone with an idea for an innovative way to combat obesity to get the project off the ground. Winners of the Funding Challenge will receive up to $10,000 in seed funding to start their project, along with mentoring from ASU’s Venture Catalyst group as well as access to real-world investors.   

When asked for a hint as to what a winning team might look like, Brewis Slade said: "We especially encourage teams that have diverse membership, because it is between people's skills that you get the interesting synergies. For example, an artist and engineer, and a nursing student, are more likely to come up with something inventive and new than a team comprised of three artists or three engineers."

The Obesity Solutions Funding Challenge is a great example of ASU’s commitment to the health and wellness, as well as its dedication to fostering entrepreneurship and innovation within the community. 

"ASU is an institution that deeply values the entrepreneurial spirit, that lets people go and try something new – or to see if it works," says Brewis Slade. "This funding challenge is about providing the support to see if that idea has wings."

For more information on the Obesity Solutions Funding Challenge, visit the Obesity Solutions website. Also, make sure to follow Obesity Solutions on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date.

Media contact:
Kathryn Eaton, kathryn.eaton@asu.edu