MOBILE HEALTH/BIOPHOTONICS: Biophotonics well represented among XPRIZE competitions

The Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE (www.nokiasensingxchallenge.org), a program designed to facilitate the development of sensing innovations able to promote the health of individuals, has announced 12 finalist teams for the first of its two consecutive competitions. Organizers XPRIZE and Nokia say that the technologies resulting from their $2.25 million competition program will help lay the foundation for a mobile health revolution. The goal is to move healthcare toward a system that is highly personalized, instantly accessible, and relevant to the medical needs of individuals.

Entrants are competing for a prize purse that includes a $525,000 Grand Prize and up to five Distinguished Awards, each valued at $120,000. Among the 12 finalists are a number of teams developing photonics-based technologies, including Holomic LLC (Los Angeles, CA), which showcased its cellphone-based rapid diagnostic test reader product in addition to other cellphone-based technologies that the company has licensed from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA): a microscope, flow cytometer, blood analyzer, and allergen detector. Another finalist is ELFI-TECH Ltd. (Rehovot, Israel), which entered what business development manager Erez Herman calls the first biomedical implementation of dynamic light scattering for the measurement of blood rheology and vascular health. And nanoLambda Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA) entered its "apollo" sensor platform, which it claims is the world's smallest spectrometer-on-a-chip and also highly affordable—able to detect personal vital and health signals noninvasively and continuously.

Nokia chief technology officer and executive VP Henry Tirri explained that while the market has seen lots of activity around health and fitness applications, medical diagnostic and sensing technologies for consumers remain scarce. But, he said, the competition has highlighted developments in consumer-focused applications and technologies "that will potentially transform the way healthcare is delivered across the globe on multiple levels, including monitoring, prevention, diagnosis, and disease management."

The winners will be the teams who demonstrate the highest merit in the areas of accuracy and consistency, demonstration quality, technical innovation, human factors, market opportunity, originality, and user experience. The final judging and awards ceremony will take place at the Health 2.0 Fall Conference (Santa Clara, CA) on October 2, 2013.

During the Qualifying Round, teams were required to submit an entry that addressed several parameters, but primarily the ability to present a solution that will accurately, reliably, and effectively collect meaningful data that can be used for identification or diagnosis of a disease, medical condition, or pattern of health. The finalists are those that the judging panel deemed most credible in the areas of accuracy, technical innovation, ease of use, originality, portability, relevance to public health needs, integration into other soft/hardware, and multi-functionality.

XPRIZE (Playa Vista, CA) is nonprofit organization that aims to "make the impossible possible" through large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate R&D investment. The organization conducts competitions in life sciences, among four other categories.

Qualcomm Tricorder competition

XPRIZE is also sponsoring the $10 Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition, which has a similar goal to revolutionize healthcare. In this competition, teams will leverage technology innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence and wireless sensing—much like the medical Tricorder of Star Trek fame—to make medical diagnoses independent of a physician or healthcare provider. The goal of the competition is to drive development of devices that will give consumers access to their state of health in the palm of their hand, and chromatic-based identification and diagnostics company Visualant has entered among nearly 300 teams from 35 countries. University of Washington professor Tom Furness, chairman of Visualant's scientific advisory board, is leading a team of students and researchers applying the company's ChromaID technology to health sensing opportunities. The Visualant Spectral Pattern Matching (SPM) technology directs structured light onto a substance, through a liquid/gas, or off a surface to capture a unique ChromaID. When matched against existing databases, a ChromaID can be used to identify, detect, or diagnose markers invisible to the human eye. ChromaID scanner modules can be integrated into a variety of mobile or fixed-mount form factors. Prof. Furness received the 2001 Satava Award (with the university's Human Interface Technology Lab, which he founded) for advances in medical technology, and the 1998 Discover Award for Technological Innovation for his Virtual Retinal Display technology.

Mark Winter, senior director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, added, "We suspect that many extraordinary solutions for the prize may emerge because of the unique relevance of photonics in diagnosing several of the health conditions the competition looks to detect." Open Photonics (Winter Park, FL), a technology acceleration firm, is partnering with XPRIZE to identify and match innovators from the global photonics community with teams competing in the Qualcomm competition. "It is possible that more than one-third of the key diagnostic measurements required as part of the guidelines for the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE can be made using light," said Open Photonics CEO Jason Eichenholz.

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