NIH has awarded seven contracts to companies and academic institutions to develop digital health solutions that help address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The seven digital health solutions are:
Evidation Health Inc.: 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: 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.: A smartphone-based platform to provide irrefutable proof of testing, serologic, and vaccination status for individuals.
physIQ Inc.: 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: 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: 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.
In a separate but related effort, NIBIB has awarded a contract to CareEvolution, for SAFER-COVID, a digital health solution that integrates self-reported symptoms, data from consumer wearable devices, electronic health record and claims data, and COVID-19 test results to indicate whether users are ready to return to work and normal activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The work 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 individuals.
NCI and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering selected the seven projects from nearly 200 ideas.
“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. That might let more people return to less restricted living and reduce the risk of devastating local outbreaks,” NCI Director Ned Sharpless said in a statement. “We are working as quickly as possible to help businesses and universities develop innovative tools to achieve this goal.”
This effort is a key component of NCI’s and NIBIB’s congressionally supported responses to COVID-19. This includes NCI’s $306 million effort to support serological science research, expand testing capacity, and develop other technologies for COVID-19, as well as NIBIB’s supplemental funding to address COVID-19.
The contracts are being awarded in two phases. Initial awards are for phase one and will be used to demonstrate feasibility of the project. After assessment of phase one results, a contractual option for phase two would provide additional funding for further development of the awardee’s program and demonstration of utility in response to the pandemic. If all seven projects were to move into the second phase, the total value of the contracts in this network would be $22.8 million. The awardees have one year to complete both phases.
The proposed digital health tools will leverage multiple data sources, including wearable devices and COVID-19 diagnostic and serology test results. Each organization will share data and other assets in an NIH-supported central data hub in ways that protect individuals’ privacy. To spur additional research, researchers will have access to data stored in the hub.
Because the collection of large digital health datasets has potential privacy implications, there is an emphasis on providing adequate privacy protections that allow personal health data to be collected without compromising civil liberties.