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Opioid Challenge Seeks Technology-Based Solutions for First Responders

Protecting first responders and curbing addiction and abuse are the goals.

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In an effort to develop technologies to fight against opioid addiction and overdose and to protect first responders and medical professionals from inadvertent exposure to opioids, the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge, entering its Challenge Phase, seeks technical solutions in four areas from the business and innovation community.

The Opioid Challenge kicked off last year with The Idea Phase at the request of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and part of a $20 million investment to fight opioid addiction. The Idea Phase concluded in December with more than 300 ideas from nine different countries and many states.

The Challenge Phase looks for technical solutions in four areas:

•    Diagnosis: Technologies to rapidly identify individuals at high risk of addiction or overdose. Solutions are expected to come from different disciplines, like IT, artificial intelligence, and biological or genetic diagnostics.

•    Prevention: Technology that eliminates or reduces urges, cravings or symptoms of withdrawal. Solutions are likely to be pharmaceuticals or medical devices that specifically address addictive responses but may also come from other behavior modification innovations.

•    Connectivity: Technology that provides immediate and extended access to help for relapse or overdose prevention. Solutions are expected to include communication or social media technologies that connect individuals, including those in remote and rural areas, to resources.

•    Protection: Technology to protect first responders and medical professionals from inadvertent exposure to toxic opioid levels. Solutions are likely to include ambient detection of opioid residue, medical prophylactics and protective equipment.

“These are the four areas where we think we can make the most impact in the nearest term,” said David Goodman, director of the project and chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission. “We recognize that this is a significant problem, and the sooner we can get new solutions and affective products and processes to market, the more lives we can save.”

The project began with an announcement by Kasich during his State of the State speech that the Development Services Agency, through the Third Frontier Commission, which invests in economic development and technology, would invest $20 million to try to help mitigate the opioid problem. 

The $20 million was divided into two programs. “One is for $12 million and your traditional RFP to the medical and science communities to submit near-term solutions in this area that we could invest in and get to market quickly,” Goodman said.

The other $8 million goes to the Challenge, which Goodman called more broad-based and seeking new ideas and new approaches from anybody. “We didn’t just want ideas from the scientific and medical communities,” he said. “We think anyone from anywhere could potentially have an idea that would be something that will help save lives.”

Ideas for the Challenge Phase are due July 11, 2018 and should be submitted to Up to 12 semifinalists will be announced in September, and those will compete in the final Product Phase of the program. The semifinalists will be awarded $200,000 to further their solutions.

There were 40 awardees altogether and five Grand Prize winners in the Idea Phase of the contest, and the private- and public-sector participants each received $10,000 to develop their ideas on combating opioid abuse and addiction.

The five ideas are:

1)    Kinametechs from Cincinnati, proposed an augmented reality coaching system, using motion-tracking technologies to customize a patient’s physical rehabilitation routine, with the belief that the physical therapy would reduce the need for prescription pain meds.

2)    The University of Dayton Research Institute graduate student Kelly Cashion’s research on neurofeedback, which uses neurological sensors to provide real-time data to patients about their brain activity. It could help patients better understand the effects of addiction on the brain.

3)    A digital tool by Judson Brewer of Worcester, Mass. The tool is based on mindfulness technology patterned after Brewer’s Craving to Quit program.

4)    Lee Barrus of InteraSolutions’ opioids abuse risk assessment screening app, which would help flag at-risk patients of addiction and direct them to an alternative to medication.

5)    The Edification Project, a virtual reality technology to educate teens and young adults of the dangers of opioid abuse.

“This is an important issue. More than 60,000 people a year are dying of this, and we need to do everything we can to save lives and we are leaving no stone unturned,” Goodman said. “It’s an outside-the-box approach but we’re pulling everything out of the cupboard to try to help save lives.”