NIH launches $1 million prize competition for maternal health diagnostics

Dec. 8, 2021

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is offering up to $1 million in cash prizes for innovative diagnostic technologies to help improve maternal health around the world.

The NIH Technology Accelerator Challenge (NTAC) for Maternal Health will seek to spur and reward the development of prototypes for low-cost, point-of-care molecular, cellular, and/or metabolic sensing and diagnostic technologies. The prize competition will be 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.

Pregnancy and childbirth complications are a major global health problem, resulting in the deaths of more than 800 women and 7,000 newborns each day, NIH said. 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. Contributing to the high rates of maternal morbidity and mortality in low-resource settings is a lack of low-cost diagnostics that operate at the point-of-care and are capable of detecting and differentiating common conditions associated with pregnancy.

Prototype devices submitted to the competition should be able to guide rapid clinical decision-making, improve patient outcomes, and ultimately help prevent maternal morbidity and mortality. Device prototypes should be capable of full integration with digital health platforms and be able to diagnose at least two pregnancy-associated conditions, including infections, hypertensive disease, hemorrhage, or placental issues.

Participants in NTAC for Maternal Health will compete for a first-place prize of up to $500,000, a second-place prize of up to $300,000, and a third-place prize of up to $150,000, with the potential for additional prizes of $50,000 for semi-finalists as well as honorable mention recognitions. Additionally, the Gates Foundation will separately review winners and honorable mentions 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.

The NIH said submissions will be accepted Jan. 5, 2022-Apr. 22, 2022.

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