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Clock is Ticking on Watch that Could Predict Illness

Analysis  |  By Mandy Roth  
   December 21, 2018

HHS awards research funds to help Israeli company further develop technology; more funding opportunities are available.

Wristwatches for telling time are so old school. Devices adorning tomorrow's wrists might alert those wearing them that they've been exposed to a pathogen, they're contagious, and the clock is ticking before they begin feeling sick.

Biobeat Technologies of Israel aims to do just that, and a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is betting the company can, investing nearly $600,000 to further develop Biobeat's existing technology. If perfected, such a device could play a role in health systems' chronic disease management programs, readmission prevention efforts, or population health initiatives by delivering care and medications soon after an individual's exposure to reduce the impact of illnesses. 

Watching for Signs of Illness

The project will employ Biobeat’s wrist watch, an FDA-cleared monitoring device that continuously measures blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, oxygen saturation, respiratory rate, stroke volume, cardiac output and index, systemic vascular resistance, sweat, skin temperature, and more. The new funding will be used to further develop its technology to track bodily changes that signal the user potentially has been exposed to an influenza virus or other pathogen.

Biobeat’s technology is based on reflective photoplethysmography, a low-cost technique to detect blood volume changes in the smallest blood vessels of human tissue. The technique is often used non-invasively to make measurements at the skin surface, according to a news release. The data is recorded and analyzed to produce alerts and recommendations of clinical significance. This also potentially allows prediction and early warning before severe physiological emergencies occur. Information can be transmitted via the cloud to a cell phone application or data base.

HHS DRIVe Initiative Designed to Identify Illness Early

The funding was awarded through the Division of Research, Innovation and Ventures (DRIVe), a division of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

This project is part of the DRIVe's Early Notification to Act, Control, and Treat (ENACT) portfolio. Products developed under ENACT aim to empower people by letting them know they are getting sick before the first symptom appears, encouraging early treatment of the disease and potentially reducing the spread of viruses. "Innovative technologies like wearable products also hold the potential to strengthen the nation’s ability to protect Americans from health security threats and to save lives," according to a news release.

In this public-private partnership, DRIVe will contribute $599,000 of the total $954,800 project cost. Biobeat will provide the remaining development costs.

DRIVe Aims to Spur Innovation

Similar initiatives funded by DRIVe include:

  • $550,909 to EnLiSense of Allen, Texas, for further development of its SWEATSENSER Dx device that detects signs of illness in sweat.
  • $62,200 to Spire of San Francisco to further investigate how its Health Tag wearable device can predict illness.

DRIVe was established in June 2018 to transform health security innovation to protect Americans from 21st century health security threats. DRIVe’s EZ-BAA application process streamlines the ways government partners with industry. The award to Biobeat was made 85 days following submission.

Funding Opportunities for Innovators

or more information about the EZ-BAA program or to apply, visit the application page.

Additional funding opportunities are available for innovations related to respiratory protection through a special DRIVe initiative jointly led by BARDA in collaboration with Johnson&Johnson Innovation, JLABS, working with Janssen Research & Development, LLC. Visit the official challenge page to learn more. As of Dec. 21, 56 days remained to apply for grants.

Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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