Massachusetts Expands Digital Health R&D Sandbox Program

June 23, 2020
Source 
massdigitalhealth.org Editors

Massachusetts Expands Digital Health R&D Sandbox Program

Adds Sites in Amherst, Bedford, Lowell & Worcester

The Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech (MeHI) has selected four new healthcare R&D hubs to join the Digital Health Sandbox Network and awarded grants to support three digital health companies in accessing the network.

The Sandbox Program connects digital health startups to cutting-edge R&D facilities in Massachusetts and allows Massachusetts startups the opportunity to apply for funding to test their innovations at one of the network’s labs.

The new additions to the Sandbox Network are:

In addition, MeHI has announced $155,000 in new grants to support three startups that will work with Sandbox sites that are part of the network:

  • MeHI has awarded a $95,000 grant to TechSpring @ Baystate Health to work with two startups, BlocHealth of Boston and Nutrimedy of Brookline, to access TechSpring’s product development acceleration services and work with experienced Innovation Managers to test and validate their products in a real healthcare environment.
     
  • The second award, a $60,000 grant, will go to MIT’s Institute of Medical and Engineering Sciences (IMES) to cover the fees for Leuko Labs of Boston to perform usability testing of their product on volunteers in replicated home and clinical settings.

In April 2019, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced $500,000 in funding for the Sandbox Program as part of the Commonwealth’s efforts to boost the digital health ecosystem under the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative. The Sandbox Program supports digital health across the Commonwealth by connecting companies to innovative test beds that will bolster the research and development lifecycle.

The addition of four Sandbox sites doubles the size of the network and expands the program’s geographic and technical diversity. Below are descriptions of the new Sandbox sites:

  • MITRE Digital Health Sandbox – Bedford, Mass. – MITRE’s mission-driven teams are dedicated to solving problems for a safer world. Through public-private partnerships and federally funded R&D centers, MITRE works across government and in partnership with industry to discover new possibilities, create unexpected opportunities, and lead by pioneering together for the public good to bring innovative ideas into existence. Within this sandbox, MITRE offers access to domain and technical expertise, open source software tools and artifacts, and unique test facilities to lower the barrier for access to data, improve healthcare interoperability, and increase the security of medical devices in care settings.
     
  • UMass Medical School – Worcester, Mass. – The UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science (UMCCTS) leverages the strong scientific environment of UMass with the clinical strengths of its health system partners to build an ecosystem that transcends traditional departmental and organizational boundaries and encourages collaborative problem-solving with communities and across historically siloed disciplines such as the biological, physical, computational, and engineering sciences. UMCCTS provides facilitated access for inventors and entrepreneurs to 50 research cores at UMMS and four primary validation environments: the Data Science Core (with the UMMS Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences), the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, the interprofessional Center for Experiential Learning and Simulation, and D3Health.
     
  • UMass Amherst Institute for Applied Life Sciences – Amherst, Mass. – The UMass Amherst Institute for Applied Life Sciences translates fundamental research into innovative product candidates, technologies, and services that deliver benefits to human health and well-being. IALS offers more than 30 Core Facilities, available to both internal and external users enabling faculty, students, and industry collaborators to access a broad array of equipment to enhance their R&D capabilities, address both basic and translational questions, deliver technologies and product candidates more rapidly, and become more competitive in obtaining state, federal, foundation, and private funding. The facilities include a state-of-the-art testbed for performing mobile health experiments at scale, the Center for Human Health and Performance, a roll-to-roll fabrication and processing facility, and leasable research laboratory space.
     
  • UMass Lowell – Lowell, Mass. - UMass Lowell, both through its robust Core Research Facility and M2D2, its incubator program for emerging life sciences startups, translates fundamental research into innovative products and technologies. UMass Lowell and M2D2 offer 10 Core Facilities with over 100 instruments, lab space and services. These allow inventors and entrepreneurs to access a broad array of equipment and human capital to enhance their R&D capabilities, address both basic and translational questions, deliver technologies and products more rapidly, and become more competitive in obtaining state, federal, foundation, and private funding.

The grants to TechSpring and MIT will allow BlocHealth, Nutrimedy, and Leuko Labs to access TechSpring’s and MIT’s unique innovation environments, allowing the startups to more quickly test, validate, and advance their products.

  • Leuko Labs, based in Boston, is a medical device company developing the world’s first portable, non-invasive white blood cell monitoring device to screen for severe neutropenia. Through this grant, Leuko Labs will work with MIT IMES to perform usability testing to confirm that their device, PointCheck, can be safely and effectively operated by untrained operators to ultimately improve their workflow in home and hospital settings. MIT IMES will provide access to replicated home and clinical settings, in house analysis of blood samples, and oversight and support of the study, enabling Leuko Labs to iteratively refine, test, and improve their device.

 
  • Nutrimedy’s mission is to improve health and reduce the epidemic burden of chronic disease by improving access to convenient, expert, personalized and affordable nutritional counseling. Through the grant, Nutrimedy, based in Brookline, will work with TechSpring’s Innovation Managers to complete the discovery, planning, and execution of a pilot project that will provide Nutrimedy’s patient-facing nutritional support platform to oncology patients at Baystate Health pre and post-surgery. Nutrimedy will work with TechSpring and Baystate Health to gather user feedback from the participating patients and clinicians and to assess the effectiveness in Nutrimedy’s platform in helping increase patients’ access to clinical nutrition care and to reach their pre-surgical nutritional goals.

 
  • BlocHealth is building a healthcare professional credential sharing network leveraging a public blockchain and smart application technology. The startup, based in Boston, will work with TechSpring Innovation Strategists to gain facilitated access to Baystate Health stakeholders, and to hold facilitated observations, interviews, and workshops with Baystate employees. This collaboration will allow BlocHealth to understand the people, business, work processes, and technology that supports the current state of the healthcare credentialing process at Baystate Health, enabling BlocHealth to improve their product and better understand the requirements to integrate their product within complex health systems.   

Another resource in the Network available to digital health startups are ‘Sandbox Tools,’ which are organizations that provide a technical service for companies to test and validate their products and services. Unlike the Sandboxes, these sites do not actively consult with and guide company development, only provide a specific service. The first tool available for startups is:

  • 1upHealth – Boston, Mass. –1upHealth provides digital health apps with live access to medical records for over 280 million patients in Massachusetts and across the U.S., via their network of over 10,000 hospitals and health centers. Any developer can get up and running with 1upHealth’s tool for free, allowing over 280 million patients to authorize access to share their full medical records in seconds to digital health apps. In addition, the 1upHealth tool includes free population-level access to over 1.2 million synthetically-generated patient records to accelerate development for healthcare systems, health insurers, and digital health applications.

 


 

Applications for the Sandbox Network and Grant Program are being accepted on a rolling basis. The program continues expansion to include new sandboxes across the state to provide digital health startups with a wide variety of testing environments and services.

Massachusetts companies interested in applying for a Sandbox Program grant can find details on MassTech’s website;

Innovative R&D spaces that are interested in joining the Sandbox Network can find the full application details here.

Have questions about the Sandbox Network? Contact Sandbox Program Manager Katie Green at green@masstech.org.