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NIH awards contracts to develop digital health technologies for COVID-19

Originally published in Mass Device

The National Institutes of Health announced that it awarded seven contracts to companies to develop digital health solutions for addressing COVID-19.

NIH said in a news release that the technology developed to help address the pandemic could lead to user-friendly tools like smartphone apps, wearable devices and software that can identify and trace contacts of infected individuals, keep track of verified COVID-19 test results and monitor the health status of infected and potentially infected people.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), as part of NIH, picked through nearly 200 ideas to select seven solutions.

“The tools these organizations plan to develop could allow us to use containment efforts, like COVID-19 testing, social distancing, and quarantine, precisely when and where they’re needed,” NCI Director Dr. Norman Sharpless said in a news release. “That might let more people return to less restricted living and reduce the risk of devastating local outbreaks. We are working as quickly as possible to help businesses and universities develop innovative tools to achieve this goal.”

Contracts will be awarded in two phases, as initial awards for phase one will be for the demonstration of the feasibility of the project. Once phase one is completed, a contractual option for phase two would offer additional funding to further development. The total value of the contracts, should all seven projects move into phase two, would reach $22.8 million. Awardees have one year to complete both phases.

Here are the selected organizations:

  • Evidation Health, Inc. (San Mateo, Calif.): A health measurement platform for analyzing a wide range of patient-consented data, including self-reported data and wearable device data, to detect COVID-19 and differentiate it from the flu.
  • IBM (Armonk, N.Y.): An integrated solution that supports sophisticated contact tracing and verifiable health status reporting, yielding an array of key research data that simultaneously empowers users and facilitates research.
  • iCrypto, Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.): A smartphone-based platform to provide irrefutable proof of testing, serologic, and vaccination status for individuals.
  • physIQ, Inc. (Chicago): An artificial intelligence-based data analytics and cloud computing platform plus U.S. Food and Drug Administration-cleared wearable devices to create a personalized baseline index that could indicate a change in health status for patients who have tested COVID-19 positive.
  • Shee Atiká Enterprises, LLC (Sitka, Alaska): A smartphone-based platform to monitor and support individuals with COVID-19 symptoms (who may need testing) and those who have already tested positive. The app will integrate a Bluetooth-enabled thermometer and pulse oximeter into an approach uniquely designed for low-resource settings and underserved populations.
  • University of California, San Francisco: A GPS-based retroactive contact-tracing tool for alerting users about contact with SARS-CoV-2–infected individuals, identifying businesses that were visited by someone who later tested positive for COVID-19, and working with those businesses and public health departments on strategies to reduce the spread of the virus.
  • Vibrent Health (Fairfax, Va.): Mobile applications, data integrations, and validated machine learning algorithms to identify COVID-19 and differentiate it from the flu, and to perform contact tracing using Wi-Fi technologies.

Additionally, NIBIB awarded CareEvolution a contract in a separate award but related effort. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company developed Safer-COVID, a digital health solution for integrating self-reported symptoms, data from consumer wearable devices, electronic health record and claims data, plus COVID-19 test results to indicate if users are ready to return to work and/or normal activities during the pandemic.