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Leveraging the Superpowers of People Living with IBD to Create the First IBD Super Hero Team

From concept creation to ongoing engagement, patients are at the center of IBD Unmasked, the first-of-its-kind global initiative to support and empower the IBD community.

Living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) often means living with unpredictable and debilitating physical, emotional, social, and professional challenges that require constant navigation.1 Combined with an associated stigma and lack of general public awareness, too many people living with IBD experience feelings of fear, isolation, and abandonment as they struggle with the profound impact that their disease can have on their day-to-day lives.

Globally, an estimated 5 million people live with IBD, including the two most common types: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.2,3 Typically, IBD patients are diagnosed during early adulthood, so Takeda was looking for a generationally-appropriate way to speak to this population.4 Through our work with patients, we have been struck by their courage, perseverance, and commitment to helping others in the IBD community. It occurred to us that we were among real-life super heroes. We immediately connected our super hero insight to the prevalence of super heroes in pop culture around the world.

To bring the super hero concept to life, Takeda assembled a group of IBD patients from around the world who know first-hand the challenges associated with these diseases and the creative geniuses at Marvel Custom Solutions, a content marketing agency within the famed Marvel Comics, to create IBD Unmasked – a first-of-its-kind global initiative to unmask the realities of IBD and celebrate the strength of this patient community.
While Takeda and Marvel Custom Solutions listened, patients shared how they do not want to be defined by their disease, but that their experiences and their stories do shape who they are. The themes of inner strength, courage, and perseverance – even when facing the challenges of IBD – rose from the discussions and inspired the world’s first IBD Super Hero team, The Unbeatables.

The inaugural member of The Unbeatables,

Samarium, who was introduced at the launch of the campaign in July 2016, along with a graphic illustration series that unmasks daily life with IBD and highlights the strength and power of patients and their supporters. Patient-centered content creation continues to be the focus of the campaign as new characters and graphic illustrations are developed. Takeda recently revealed four new members of The Unbeatables.

The team appears in the opening chapter of the new IBD Unmasked graphic novel series available online at www.IBDunmasked.com, where visitors can also create and share their own Super Hero avatar, take part in quizzes and download tips to help them talk to their healthcare professionals, family or friends about their condition.

The Unbeatables represent the synthesis of the stories and experiences of patients with IBD that inspired this campaign from the very beginning. The early success of this campaign sheds light on what we as an industry can do, and how much of a positive impact we can have in transforming the patient experience. 


1Lesnovska, et al. What do patients need to know: living with inflammatory bowel disease? Journal of Clinical Nursing. 2013:23: 1718-1725.
2Burisch J and Munkholm P. The epidemiology of inflammatory bowel disease. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. 2015; 50: 942–951.
3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease? (IBD)? Published September 18, 2014. Accessed March 17, 2016.
4Stenson W. Inflammatory bowel disease. In: Yamada T, Alpers D, Laine L, Owyang C, Powell D. Textbook of Gastroenterology. Vol 2. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Publishers; 1999:1776-1856.