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NIH RADx Tech Program to Award $2M for Fetal Diagnostic Technologies

NEW YORK – The National Institutes of Health's Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Technology program announced on Monday that it will award up to $2 million to accelerate the development of fetal health diagnostic and monitoring technologies. 

The Fetal Monitoring Challenge is seeking innovative point-of-care and home-based diagnostic or monitoring technologies that can reduce fetal health risk and loss during the late antepartum or intrapartum periods of pregnancy, particularly in low-resource settings, NIH said in a statement. The technologies must measure one or more parameters of fetal health status and must have strong potential for accessible, cost-effective use and impact in low-resource settings. 

The challenge is sponsored by the NIH's National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

NIH cited in vitro diagnostics, wearable devices, smartphone-enabled diagnostics, photonic or acoustic imaging devices, and integrated sensor technologies as examples of potential technologies. Up to 10 semifinalists will receive $5,000 and deliver a live presentation and technology demonstration to NIH, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other experts, the agency said. Up to six finalists will receive $75,000 and the chance to participate in the final phase to advance their technologies and address risks to development, with final prizes of up to $750,000.

The challenge is opened to any US-based organization or innovator that can demonstrate its technology's feasibility and readiness for a reasonable likelihood of market entry within five years. They must also demonstrate strong potential for accessible and cost-effective use in low-resource settings, the agency said. 

"By bringing attention to an unacceptable state of care, we hope to inspire innovators to engineer solutions for accurate, cost-effective, and safe fetal monitoring and diagnostic approaches," Bruce Tromberg, director of the NIBIB, said in a statement. "The goal is safer birth outcomes — focusing on the health of the fetus in the latter stages of pregnancy, when easy-to-use technologies might detect the need for specific medical care."