The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a slew of new Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) initiatives on July 28 to enable innovative research objectives through technologies such as AI and cloud.

SBIR and STTR are competitive research and development programs that push small businesses to develop high-tech, innovative solutions to government goals. NIH and CDC released dozens of new project proposals for small businesses to apply to, including many health IT advancements and telehealth-inspired technologies.

The National Center for Advancing Translational Services (NCATS), a branch of NIH, is seeking both virtual reality patient care and an autonomous laboratory through the SBIR and STTR programs.

The virtual reality care environment would enable remote rare disease therapy and automatically collect health metrics and data. NCATS wrote that while current video conferencing capabilities enable communication, they lack the interpersonal connection necessary to rare disease therapy. The project would fund one to three “high-quality teletherapy and remote monitoring” in a virtual reality environment projects at up to $2,325,000 over two phases.

An autonomous laboratory sponsored by NCATS envisions an AI-enabled therapeutic and diagnostic platform. The platform would be linked to cloud-based resources, including a virtual research organization, to make data accessible to researchers in near real-time. NCATS wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing sparked the need for novel techniques that do not require people to be physically present in a lab. The center is prepared to fund one to three awards for the two-phased project up to $2,325,000.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is seeking to harness the power of data in cancer research. NCI wrote that the field of cancer research is “intensely focused” on high-throughput datasets to better understand cancer and inform treatment and prevention. The institute created the Cancer Research Data Commons to address this issue, and now wants commercial sector participation to develop cloud-based analytic tools for cancer research. NCI is funding three to five projects up to $2,400,000 over two phases.

NCI is also seeking IT tools to automate the analysis of physical activity, performance, and behavior for improved cancer health. The institute wrote that its long-term goal is to develop software that can extract data from images of people, apply AI or machine learning algorithms, and determine “multiple aspects of cancer prevention and control.” NCI is prepared to grant three to five awards up to $2,400,000 over two phases.

CDC aims to promote handwashing behavior in children as a part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic with an interactive, phone-based video game. The center wrote that its approach to encourage handwashing uses “gamification” to educate the user on the benefits of handwashing and push users to engage in the behavior. CDC plans to fund one award up to $1,243,500 over two phases.

“The impact of this game could result in increases in handwashing behavior which could result in decreases in infection of not just respiratory illness associated with coronavirus, but also for a wider range of other communicable diseases,” the solicitation states.

While project awards and timelines vary, NIH and CDC will be accepting initial proposals through October 26.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.