NIH Awards Health Tech Companies with Grants to Develop COVID-19 Apps and Solutions


The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded seven companies and academic institutions grants to develop digital health technology to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. These technologies include things such as smartphone apps, wearable devices and software. The winners were:

Evidation Health. Based in San Mateo, California, Evidation will work on developing a health measurement platform that can analyze a variety of patient-consented data to detect COVID-19 and differentiate it from influenza.

IBM. Headquartered in Armonk, New York, IBM’s integrated solution will support contact tracing and verifiable health status reporting.

iCrypto. Located in Santa Clara, California, iCrypto is developing a smartphone-based platform to provide irrefutable proof of testing, serologic and vaccination status for individuals.

physIQ. Based in Chicago, physIQ is working on an artificial intelligence (AI)-based data analytics and cloud computing platform with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared wearable devices. The goal is to create a personalized baseline index that would indicate a change in health status for people who tested positive for COVID-19.

Shee Atika Enterprise. Located in Sitka, Alaska, Shee Atika is developing a smartphone-based platform to monitor and support individuals with COVID-19 symptoms who may need testing and those who have tested positive already. It will integrate a Bluetooth-enabled thermometer and pulse oximeter.

University of California, San Francisco. UCSF is working on a GPS-based retroactive contact-tracing tool to alert users about contact with COVID-19-positive people and identifying businesses that were visited by people that later tested positive.

Vibrent Health. Headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, Vibrent is developing mobile apps, data integrations, and validated machine learning algorithms to identify COVID-19 and differentiate it from influenza and to perform contact tracing leveraging Wi-Fi technology.

The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) also awarded a separate contract to CareEvolution, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for SAFER-COVID, a digital health solution that integrates self-reported symptoms, collects data from consumer wearables, electronic health record and data claims, and COVID-19 test results.

“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,” stated NCI Director Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless. “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.”

The seven projects were chosen from 200 different proposals by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and NIBIB, both part of NIH. The awards are part of the two organizations’ congressionally supported responses to COVID-19, and include NCI’s $306 million effort to support serological science research, expand the U.S. testing capacity for COVID-19, and develop other technologies.

The contracts will be granted in two phases. The initial awards for phase one will be to demonstrate each project’s feasibility. After phase one is evaluated, phase two offers a contractual option that would provide more funding for further development. If all seven projects move into the second phase, the total contracts would be worth $22.8 million. All recipients have one year to complete both phases.

“Despite the technology advances and attention paid to COVID-19, the healthcare community is still monitoring patient vitals the very same way as we did in the 1800s,” said Steven Steinhubl, director of Digital Medicine at Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) and an advisor to physIQ. “With the advances in digital technology, AI and wearable biosensors, we can deliver personalized medicine remotely giving caregivers new tools to proactively address this pandemic. For that reason alone, this decision by the NIH has the potential to have a monumental impact on our healthcare system and how we manage COVID-19 patients.”

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