NIH Announces $1 Million Prize Competition to Develop New Maternal Health Diagnostics



The National Institutes of Health is offering up to $1 million in cash prizes for innovative diagnostic technologies to help improve maternal health around the world in conjunction with the White House “day of action” on maternal health. 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 is 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. 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.

“In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bioengineering community demonstrated the speed with which novel point-of-care diagnostics can be deployed,” said NIBIB Director Bruce Tromberg, Ph.D. “The field is now poised to deliver solutions in many other areas of need, and maternal health is an especially urgent target.”

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.

Submissions will be accepted Jan. 5, 2022 through Apr. 22, 2022. Details about eligibility, rules and how to register and participate can be found on the challenge website(link is external).

About the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB): NIBIB’s mission is to improve health by leading the development and accelerating the application of biomedical technologies. The Institute is committed to integrating engineering and physical science with biology and medicine to advance our understanding of disease and its prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment. NIBIB supports emerging technology research and development within its internal laboratories and through grants, collaborations, and training. More information is available at the NIBIB website.

About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD leads research and training to understand human development, improve reproductive health, enhance the lives of children and adolescents, and optimize abilities for all. For more information, visit https://www.nichd.nih.gov.

About the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH): ORWH serves as the focal point for women’s health research at NIH. It is the first Public Health Service office dedicated specifically to promoting women’s health research within, as well as beyond, the NIH scientific community. The office also fosters the recruitment, retention, reentry, and advancement of women in biomedical careers. For more information about ORWH, visit www.nih.gov/women.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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