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NIH Launches $1M Challenge to Develop Dx Technologies for Sickle Cell, Malaria, Anemia

NEW YORK – The National Institutes of Health announced on Wednesday a $1 million Technology Accelerator Challenge to develop noninvasive, handheld, digital technologies to detect, diagnose and guide therapies for three diseases with high global and public health impact.

Additionally, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide support to winners of the challenge to help develop their ideas into products for low-resource settings.

The challenge, which is being led by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering,  takes aim at sickle cell disease, malaria, and anemia. NIH will award up to $500,000 to a top finalist and smaller awards to about five semi-finalists.

The Gates Foundation will review the winners and honorable mentions to consider possible follow-on support, which may include a grant of up to $500,000 and/or consultations, partnerships for clinical data collection, software development, scale-up, and manufacturing, NIH said.

The challenge is not being limited to any specific technology, but the inspiration "comes from the widespread availability of mobile phones and the potential for mobile phone-linked sensor technology to noninvasively detect changes in the blood and blood vessels associated with these treatable diseases," NIBIB Director Bruce Tromberg said in a statement.

Dan Wattendorf, director of Innovative Technology Solutions, Global Health for the Gates Foundation, added "Handheld, low-cost tools can bring testing out of a laboratory and to the point of need. Digitally enabled tools can help provide objective guidance for those administering a test, reducing procedural errors, and facilitating collection of more complete diagnostic information."

Applications are being accepted through June 2 and winners of the challenge will be announced in August.