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NIH Launches $1 Million Competition to Target Disease Diagnostics


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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched the $1 million Technology Accelerator Challenge to spur the design and development of noninvasive, handheld, digital technologies to detect, diagnose, and guide therapies for diseases with high global and public health impact. The challenge is focused on sickle cell disease, malaria, and anemia and is led by NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is cooperating with the NIH to help accelerate the transformation of design concepts into products for low-resource settings.

The NIH will award up to $500,000 for a top finalist and smaller awards to approximately five semi-finalists. The Gates Foundation will separately review winners and honorable mentions and consider them for follow-up support. This support may include a grant of up to $500,000 and/or consultations, partnerships for clinical data collection, software development, scale-up, and manufacturing.

Focus on Low-Resource Settings

Accessible diagnostic tools are essential for providing treatments and cures for some of the world’s highest-burden diseases. Although diagnostics currently exist for sickle cell disease, malaria, and anemia, they can be challenging to deliver in low-resource settings, particularly at the population level, due to cost, invasiveness, and the expertise required to administer the tests. The current challenge is designed to stimulate the development of a platform technology that could be used to rapidly screen large populations as well as provide physicians with a practical tool for optimizing therapy in individual patients. For low-resource settings, diagnostics would ideally be portable, self-contained, low-cost, adaptable to multiple diseases, and able to integrate information about the patient and the environment in interpreting the test result.

The challenge will accept applications through June 2, 2020. Registrations and applications submissions are through the challenge’s website: www.nibib.nih.gov/NIH-Technology-Accelerator-Challenge. Applicants are reminded to review the challenge guidelines. 


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