The finalists have been announced for the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, lowering the field from 22 companies that had not yet dropped out to just 10 that will compete for the $10 million prize in a series of hands-on trials of their handheld, smartphone-connected diagnostic devices designed for consumer use.
“This is an extremely hard competition,” Dr. Erik Viirre, technical and medical director for X Prize told MobiHealthNews. “It’s for 10 million bucks, so we’re not making it easy. And all the various elements that are in the competition are pretty difficult. So really the charge to the judging panel by X Prize, and I think the stand that they took, was ‘Are the teams that were invited to be finalists, is it plausible that they’re going to be ready to have technology available, built and complete by next spring?’ That was fundamentally the question that was used and this was the list they came up with.”
The 10 teams selected span the globe — less than half of the final cut are from the United States. They also represent a mix of large companies, startups, and smaller “garage” operations.
“That’s really the spirit of X Prize, and we see that in so many of our competitions,” said Viirre. “A high school team building a fuel efficient car, a fisherman building an oil cleanup technology. We see these things and in fact we use those stories in our charge to the judges to encourage them to keep an open mind.”
Scanadu, the California team that made headlines for a successful crowdfunding campaign, made the cut. But so did Aezon, the student team from Johns Hopkins, and Final Frontier, a team made up of two brothers from Pennsylvania — a doctor and an engineer.
On the other hand a few of the more talked about teams didn’t make the cut: Jack Andraka’s high school Team Gen Z dropped out and, surprisingly, Nanobiosym, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based team that won the Nokia Sensing X Prize, a smaller, affiliated competition held last year, didn't make finals. Here’s the full list of finalists in alphabetical order, from X Prize’s press release:
Aezon (Rockville, Md.), led by Tatiana Rypinski, a team of student engineers from Johns Hopkins University partnering with the Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design.
CloudDX (Mississauga, Canada), a team from medical devices manufacturer Biosign and led by company chief medical officer, Dr. Sonny Kohli.
Danvantri (Chennai, India), a team from technology manufacturer American Megatrends India and led by company Director and CEO, Sridharan Mani.
DMI (Cambridge, Mass.), a team led by Dr. Eugene Y. Chan of the DNA Medicine Institute partnering with NASA, the National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dynamical Biomarkers Group (Zhongli City, Taiwan), a team of physicians, scientists and engineers led by Harvard Medical School professor Chung-Kang Peng.
Final Frontier Medical Devices (Paoli, Pa.), a team led by the founders of Basil Leaf Technologies—brothers Dr. Basil Harris, an emergency room physician, and George Harris, a network engineer.
MESI Simplifying Diagnostics (Ljubljana, Slovenia), a team from diagnostic medical device manufacturer MESI and led by company CEO, Jakob Susteric.
Scanadu (Moffett Field, Calif.), a team from Silicon Valley-based start-up Scanadu led by technology entrepreneur and company co-founder and CEO, Walter De Brouwer.
SCANurse (London, England), a team from diagnostic medical manufacturer SCANurse and led by biomedical engineer and company founder, Anil Vaidya.
zensor (Belfast, Ireland), a team from clinical sensor and electrode company Intelesens and led by design engineer, Ian McCullough.”
In a sense, the real competition begins now. To get to this point, teams have only had to submit paperwork — things like designs, testing data, and safety plans, as well as videos and websites. They were judged on three broad areas, each weighted equally: safety engineering, diagnosis technology, and user design.
Now, the remaining teams have until this winter to supply X Prize with a functioning prototype of their device. That prototype will be examined by bio-engineering safety engineers.
“Their job will be to inspect the devices for any kind of health risks, injury risks to potential users,” Viirre said. “Safety is our number one concern. So the first major gate will be the safety inspection of the prototype next winter, that it conforms to the engineering descriptions that have been provided by the teams. Then it will be put through the paces that typically are done to hospital-grade medical technology on a safety engineer’s review bench.”
Then teams will have to supply 30 complete devices to X Prize, who will send them to an as-yet undisclosed medical center that will serve as the competition’s testing facility. In the spring, that medical center will solicit patients with the conditions the tricorders are designed to test for.
“Somebody with anemia for example will be brought in, a tricorder will be randomly assigned from a given team, and then the person will be asked to basically follow the instructions, turn the thing on and use it,” Viirre said.
The data the tricorder collects will be uploaded to a cloud repository, where the judges will be able to compare it to independent standard-of-care tests on the same patient. The patient will also be asked to fill out a user experience survey, the results of which will also factor into the team’s score. After 48 such test sessions for each team, a winner will be declared in early 2016.
“No team is perfect, nobody got a perfect score [in the recent qualifying round], which is not surprising,” Viirre said. “And there was no ranking, but the different approaches were looked at by the judging panel and deemed to be the best chance for us to come out with some really solid and innovative winners.”
Of course, while there will only be one $10 million prize, the competition is intended to result in multiple viable consumer products, a fact of which Viirre has no doubt. As a case in point, Scanadu’s Scout device is already on its way to the hands of beta testers.
“I was at the Nokia finals last year, and literally the same day that the prize winners were announced, investors were going in and talking to the competitors and making investments,” Viirre said. “And I know that’s happening not only for the finalists, but other competitors, just because of the visibility that comes from being an X Prize competitor. So I am very confident we’ll see plenty of technology.”
Check out videos of the 10 finalist teams on the next page.
Dynamical Biomarkers Group:
Final Frontier Medical Devices:
MESI Simplifying Diagnostics: