CEO and Founder, Alerje, Inc.
How my food allergies inspired me to transform an industry
Along with over 220 million people worldwide, I suffer from food allergies. Food allergies can be an annoyance for some, but they’re a potential life-or-death threat for others. My food allergies, paired with an invaluable background, including working as a software developer at a health insurance/pharmacy benefit management company, inspired the innovation that I knew the market needed.
While epinephrine auto-injectors are a lifesaver for those with severe food allergies, most people who suffer from food allergies either don’t carry their auto-injector or carry one that has expired. A forgotten or expired auto-injector puts the individual at risk. Related worries and rushed trips to the Emergency Room can also impact the “care circle” of friends and family around the individual. One day I asked myself, “what is the one thing that everyone carries?” A cell phone! It was this revelation that was the spark for my innovation. Since then, Alerje has developed an epinephrine auto-injector housed in a specially designed phone case. Patients will also have access to an innovative mobile software platform that helps them manage allergies and their related therapies, and connect them with their care circle. Integrating patient and empathy-driven technical solutions within the patient’s journey presented a true win for many stakeholders:
- a win for the patient and the people who care about them
- a win for insurance companies (for whom an ER visit costs far more than an auto-injector),
- a win for pharma, providing insights via real-world evidence to inform future product development.
Innovating a new product, especially in healthcare, is hard, and building a business around a new product can be even more challenging. Not only do you find yourself drawing the blueprint as you build, but you also must simultaneously educate and inform the market to see and trust your vision. As you can imagine, it can be incredibly challenging building a drug delivery digital health company in the Midwest as a systemically-excluded Black founder. Addressing these challenges meant that I needed to expand my network to include a brain trust of advisors and advocates who brought a groundswell of expertise and resources that are otherwise difficult to gain.
Solidea believed in us very early on. With their guidance and support, we are also on the path to commercializing the world’s first food allergy Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) adherence platform. Solidea’s ability to bring in multi-discipline professionals and expert-level Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) has been critical to our journey. They helped us evaluate strategic partners and build our advisory and investor teams with leading SMEs from Fortune 100 companies. Above all, Solidea is aligned in our mission to create a more equitable digital health startup ecosystem on all fronts, and I am proud to have Solidea as a partner on this journey.