The National Institutes of Health today announced the winners of its NIH Technology Accelerator Challenge (NTAC) for Maternal Health, a prize competition for developers of diagnostic technologies to help improve maternal health around the world. Pregnancy and childbirth complications are a major global health problem. Tragically, these complications result in the deaths of more than 800 women and 7,000 newborns each day. Low-cost diagnostics that operate at the point-of-care and can detect and differentiate among common conditions associated with pregnancy are needed to help reduce the high rates of maternal morbidity and mortality in low-resource settings.
The winning technologies share a total of $1 million in prizes for the successful design and development of diagnostic tests and platform technologies to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality. The prize competition is managed by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and with support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health.
“This competition prioritized technologies that could have life-saving impact on women, families, and communities, and provide health care workers with technologies they can readily integrate into practice with their patients,” said NIBIB Director Bruce J. Tromberg, Ph.D. “We congratulate the teams who entered this field of competition with their innovative device designs and platform technologies, as well as articulating a pathway for translation and use of their innovations for global health settings.”
Priority maternal health conditions addressed in NTAC for Maternal Health include infection, hypertensive disease, hemorrhage and placental issues. Hemorrhage, pre-eclampsia and bacterial infections account for more than 50% of global maternal mortality, with 94% of these fatalities occurring in low- and lower middle-income countries.
The NTAC for Maternal Health drew over 40 entries, five of which were selected to receive cash prizes, while an additional four entries received honorable mention awards. Each of the cash prize winners will be invited to present a summary of their diagnostic technologies at a livestreamed winner’s showcase from 2-3:30 p.m. on Thurs., August 4, 2022. Preregister here up to an hour before the event.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will separately review winners and those receiving an honorable mention and consider them for follow-on support that may include grant funding and/or in-kind support in the form of consultations and partnerships for clinical data collection, software development, scale-up and manufacturing. Read more about the NTAC for Maternal Health program.
The winning technologies are as follows:
First place and a $500,000 prize. Dr. Bethany Hedt-Gauthier, Harvard University, Boston. mHealth tools for community health worker-led home-based diagnosis of surgical site infections and anemia post-cesarian delivery. A stand-alone, integrated mobile health tool for community health workers to monitor postpartum recovery by women following a cesarian delivery. The tool enables home-based diagnosis of surgical-site infections and anemia. The team designed the technology to be used in rural Rwanda; its use could be transferred to low infrastructure and resource settings in other countries.
Second place and a $300,000 prize. University of California, Irvine. Maternal obstetrics monitoring sock (MOMS). The hemodynamic monitoring sock is a low-cost, portable, point-of-care system to monitor pregnant women for preeclampsia, anemia, and hemorrhage. It continuously tracks blood pressure and heart rate and monitors blood flow; it can be used during and after delivery in low-resource settings.
Third place tie and a $75,000 prize. Softsonics, LLC, San Diego. A wearable ultrasound/electrochemical sensor for maternal health surveillance. A conformal, stretchable and integrated wearable sensor providing dynamic and comprehensive monitoring of pregnancy complications, including sepsis, preeclampsia, and placental disfunction. The sensor can monitor blood pressure, heart rate and lactate levels and can facilitate Doppler ultrasound imaging. The technology does not require a trained operator, enabling its use in low-resource settings.
Third place tie and a $75,000 prize. Raydiant Oximetry, Inc., San Francisco. LUMERAH™ near infrared spectroscopy platform to diagnose maternal hemorrhage and fetal distress during pregnancy. The LUMERAH™ system is a non-invasive platform technology that uses near-infrared spectroscopy to perform non-invasive pulse oximetry. The device is being developed for the diagnosis of fetal hypoxic distress during labor and delivery and maternal hemorrhage in the postpartum period. These conditions impact mothers across the developed and developing world.
Semi-finalist and a $50,000 prize. Stanford University, Stanford, California. Point-of-care diagnostics tool for preeclampsia and anemia in pregnancy. A fully integrated molecular diagnostic system on a miniaturized, disposable semiconductor chip to enable simple, low-cost, and early detection of preeclampsia and maternal anemia at the point-of-care. The technology will identify high-risk pregnancies and enable their close monitoring and early intervention and be, suitable for use in both high-income and low- and middle-income countries.
Honorable mention. VoluMetrix, LLC, Nashvllle. Non-invasive venous waveform analysis (NIVA) for maternal health. An accurate, easy to use, non-invasive wrist sensor to monitor key physiological variables by capturing low frequency venous waveforms. It is being developed to provide hemorrhage monitoring, early detection of pre-eclampsia and monitoring for acute respiratory distress. Ease-of-use and portability enable a healthcare provider to monitor a patient in the hospital or at home during the peripartum period and during delivery.
Honorable mention. Dr. Mathias Wipf, MOMM Diagnostics, Basel, Switzerland. Rapid Preeclampsia Diagnostic Test (RaPiD). A cost-effective method to rule-out or diagnose preeclampsia at the point-of-care via a simple-to-use blood test. This proof-of-concept prototype for a rapid diagnostic test for preeclampsia determines the concentration ratio between two preeclampsia biomarkers from a single drop of blood. It offers a low-cost solution for immediate and continuous patient monitoring during pregnancy check-ups.
Honorable mention. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. Modifying maternal recumbent position to prevent preeclampsia and placental disease. The automated supine pressor test (Auto-SPT) is an adaptation of the supine pressor test used to predict the risk for preeclampsia in pregnant women based on elevation in their diastolic blood pressure when shifting from their left side to their back. Auto-SPT uses a standard brachial blood pressure cuff, smartphone, and position sensor to guide patients through the test. Auto-SPT is primarily designed to be used at home for preeclampsia risk prediction or therapeutic positioning to reduce placental disease.
Honorable mention. Washington University in St. Louis. Maternal aRMOR: Preventing global maternal mortality and morbidity with a wearable device. A low-cost wearable device that provides real-time data to inform early clinical decision making for hemorrhage and preeclampsia in high- and low-resource settings. The Maternal aRMOR uses a low-powered laser and light sensor to monitor physiologic changes that can be used to diagnose hemorrhage and preeclampsia. The device, which can be worn throughout pregnancy, labor, and postpartum recovery, interfaces with a mobile phone or tablet, providing actionable results in minutes.
About the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB): NIBIB’s mission is to improve health by leading the development and accelerating the application of biomedical technologies. The Institute is committed to integrating engineering and physical science with biology and medicine to advance our understanding of disease and its prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment. NIBIB supports emerging technology research and development within its internal laboratories and through grants, collaborations, and training. More information is available at the NIBIB website.
About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD leads research and training to understand human development, improve reproductive health, enhance the lives of children and adolescents, and optimize abilities for all. For more information, visit https://www.nichd.nih.gov.
About the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH): ORWH serves as the focal point for women’s health research at NIH. It is the first Public Health Service office dedicated specifically to promoting women’s health research within, as well as beyond, the NIH scientific community. The office also fosters the recruitment, retention, reentry, and advancement of women in biomedical careers. For more information about ORWH, visit www.nih.gov/women
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): The National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit the NIH website.