WESTBOROUGH – The Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech (MeHI) has selected three of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ leading healthcare R&D hubs to join the Digital Health Sandbox Network, which connects Massachusetts-based startups to cutting-edge R&D facilities and allows them the opportunity to apply for funding to test their innovations at one of the Network’s labs. The new additions to the roster of Sandbox locations are Brigham Digital Innovation Hub (iHub) in Boston, MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) in Cambridge, and TechSpring at Baystate Health in Springfield, Mass.
In addition, MeHI has selected two startups - eMotion Rx of Cambridge and Stability Health of Worcester - to test and validate their products and services at PracticePoint at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the first sandbox in the network. MeHI will award an $85,000 grant to PracticePoint which will allow the two startups to develop and refine their products, gaining access to PracticePoint’s resources, tools, and expertise, with the funds covering membership fees and the purchase of materials for each company’s project.
“Through the Sandbox Grant program, we hope to reduce the time, cost, and resources required to test innovative digital health solutions that are ‘Made in Massachusetts,’” said Laurance Stuntz, MeHI Director and a member of the Governor’s Digital Health Council. “By expanding the roster of Sandbox locations in the Network, we’re offering both Massachusetts and non-Massachusetts startups expanded access to tools and testbeds that could be a springboard for their growth. Our hope is that by working with these world-class facilities and staff, startups can improve on their product and shorten the time to market, helping deliver their products into the hands of healthcare consumers around the world more quickly.”
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced $500,000 in funding for the sandbox program in April 2019 as part of the Commonwealth’s efforts to boost innovative startups under the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative. Spearheaded by the Massachusetts Digital Health Council, the Sandbox program aims to boost digital health across the Commonwealth by connecting companies to innovative test beds that will bolster the research and development lifecycle.
The three new Sandboxes that are being made available to startups through the program include:
- Brigham Digital Innovation Hub (iHub) - Boston, Mass. - The iHub’s mission is to drive more patient-centered, efficient and safe care through use, development, evaluation and commercialization of digital health. Having spent six years at the front lines of digital health implementation simplifying and accelerating the adoption of innovative tools across Brigham Health, the iHub has positioned itself as a collaborator of choice for digital health startups. With expertise in identifying, matching, co-developing, and piloting both early stage and market-ready digital solutions, the iHub has created an effective model to drive value to industry partners and to the institution by enabling researchers, clinicians and staff to participate in the process of building and validating digital products in clinical settings.
- MIT IMES Clinical Research Center (CRC) – Cambridge, Mass. - MIT’s IMES CRC supports multidisciplinary research in human health including device and algorithm research from concept to clinical translation. IMES helps to support the complete clinical research lifecycle by providing resources to support protocol design, regulatory compliance, clinical consultation, iterative design, oversight and participant monitoring, in addition to operationalizing clinical research protocols. The CRC spans 11,650 square feet of reconfigurable and flexible testing space that easily conforms to a variety of settings: home, outpatient and/or hospital. Also available is the Clinical Biomedical Pre-research Services, a state-of-the-art biomedical research institute located in Lexington, Mass.
- TechSpring at Baystate Health – Springfield, Mass. - TechSpring represents Baystate Health’s digital innovation team, specializing in the discovery, evaluation, design, development and deployment of impactful technologies. For 5 years, TechSpring has championed projects building a bridge between digital health innovators and a real health care environment. By linking technology solutions in the marketplace to Baystate Health’s passionate problems and strategic initiatives, TechSpring enables partnering digital health companies to access the assets of Baystate Health, and the WMass healthcare ecosystem, to test, pivot, refine, and launch new solutions.
Following the announcement of the Sandbox grant program in April, MeHI released a request for proposals to solicit applications from digital health companies to request financial assistance to access PracticePoint, the first sandbox identified under the program. Submissions were reviewed by the Independent Steering Committee, made up of healthcare and technology experts from across Massachusetts, which made recommendations to MeHI that led to the approval of the grant to PracticePoint to cover the two startups:
- eMotionRx invents, develops and commercializes medical rehabilitation devices for people with impaired mobility. These range from exoskeletons for people with weak or paralyzed limbs to inclusive fitness devices that help a wide range of people with fitness issues, in particular those amplified by disability or aging. The startup, housed at the aging-focused innovation hub AGENCY at the Cambridge Innovation Center, will test their standing desk with integrated sensors and their self-powered exoskeleton, which will use digital technology to determine how and where to harvest energy from a stronger part of the body to strengthen a weaker part of the body to assist people with weak or paralyzed lower limbs enjoy the benefits of walking.
- Stability Health’s mission is to improve the lives of people with diabetes. The company’s technology-enabled diabetes care management platform integrates technology, tools, and expert clinical diabetes care knowledge to help individuals and their diabetes care providers better manage their care. Based in Worcester, the company was co-founded by Dr. Dave Harlan, Stability Health’s President and Chief Medical Officer, who also serves as co-director of the University of Massachusetts Medical School/UMass Memorial Health Care’s Diabetes Center of Excellence.
The digital health sandbox that will host the startups, WPI’s PracticePoint, is aimed at “improving healthcare and patient wellness through the development of medical cyber-physical systems” by co-locating manufacturing equipment and capabilities with clinical testing facilities, making it easier and faster to test, refine, retest all in one place. PracticePoint members gain access to state-of-the-art equipment, clinical partners within the university’s ecosystem, and WPI’s own in-house experts, including its director, Dr. Greg Fischer, an expert in the area of medical robotics and computer-integrated surgery. The facility was supported by a $5 million infrastructure grant from the Commonwealth’s Collaborative Research Matching Grant program managed by the Innovation Institute at the MassTech, an award announced by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito in April 2017.
“Massachusetts is one of the top states for R&D, patents, and overall innovation, due in large part to the world-class test facilities that exist across the Commonwealth,” said Carolyn Kirk, Executive Director of the MassTech Collaborative, MeHI’s parent agency.
“By increasing access to these digital health testbeds, we’re increasing opportunities for Massachusetts digital health startups to grow their product and become globally competitive. For companies outside the state, we’ve created another reason to move to Massachusetts, by knitting together a network of innovative digital health testbeds that feature leading engineers and tech experts, plus access to innovative healthcare organizations.”
Applications for the Sandbox Network and Grant Program are being accepted on a rolling basis. The program is expanding to include additional sandboxes across the state, in order to provide startups with a variety of testing environments and services.
- Companies interested in applying for a Sandbox program grant can find details on the MassTech’s website;
- Innovative R&D spaces that are interested in joining the Sandbox Network can find the full application details here.
About the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech
The Massachusetts eHealth Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, is the Commonwealth’s entity for healthcare innovation, technology, and competitiveness, and partners with industry, government, and healthcare organizations to support the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative on behalf of Governor Charlie Baker. MeHI also helps all the Commonwealth’s providers harness the benefits of electronic health records and the Mass HIway, the statewide health information exchange. For more information, please visit https://mehi.masstech.org and follow @MassEHealth. Learn more about the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative at www.massdigitalhealth.org.