In my most recent blog for PLSG, I described the value – both in the short-term for immediate funding and in the long-term for potentially gaining access to Federal sources of capital – of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the companion Small business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) programs.
These Congressionally mandated programs require all agencies that fund R&D to set aside 3.5% of their extra-mural research budgets for companies that have fewer than 500 employees. And we are in the thick of the application season right now for the National Institutes of Health, which among hundreds of topics, is looking to fund the hot area of Health IT.
For instance, NIH’s current call for entrepreneurial applications includes a topic titled, “Population Health Data Using Blockchain Technology,” as one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) areas of interest.
The CDC is also interested in “Improving Platforms for Data Linkage in Drug Overdose Prevention,” which it describes as “the creation of new platforms, algorithms, or software packages to allow for linkage of data in the area of drug overdose prevention. Such technologies will allow public health practitioners to link injury-related health, behavioral health, and law enforcement data to strengthen drug monitoring surveillance by public health departments.”
NIH points out that technology for technology’s sake is rarely sufficient, stating “Software developers must attend to privacy concerns associated with these data systems (e.g., protected health and law enforcement data). Software must be user-friendly, and accompanied by guidance for states and localities to use the platform or algorithm.”
Likewise, the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering is interested in telehealth technology, emphasizing development that includes usability and addresses real-world deployment considerations. So, a word to pure algorithm developers: Hook up with interaction designers, technical writers, cybersecurity experts and, yes, lawyers, to craft an appropriately well-rounded development approach.
The CDC is even interested in funding adaptive driving technologies that will reduce or prevent the injuries that result from automobile crashes, acknowledging the long-standing realization – not unlike the advent of seat belts – that this is very much a public health issue.
The CDC is also seeking technologies to address concussions, specifically tools that parents can use to monitor, record, and report post-traumatic brain injury symptoms.
The National Institute on Aging, which, at last check, had the 7th largest budget among NIH’s institutes and centers, is interested in a wide variety of mainstream Health Information Technologies, including health databases, tools for data sharing, and big data analytics. NIA is also interested in AI and machine learning approaches to early diagnosis of age-related illnesses.
Further, NIA wants systems that integrate Health IT to wearable and prosthetic-embedded sensors for a variety of applications that include gait analysis and diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment.
As a final example, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which has the 4th largest budget within NIH, has a whole Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology.
Those are among topics listed in the current call’s Appendix that contains topics for which Phase 1 and Phase 2 budgets are allowed to exceed $225,000 and $1.5 million, respectively. Because it contains those and other potentially especially lucrative opportunities, we always strongly encourage companies to scan the Appendix first. We also echo NIH’s strong encouragement to contact Program Officers early and often to discuss alignment before preparing grant applications.
For guidance and assistance in accessing and completing SBIR/STTR grant applications, visit https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-18-123.html. The next deadline is April 5 – still plenty of time, but not much to waste.
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