The Next Frontier

With Grand Prix behind us, there is lots to look forward to in Montreal this summer. In honor of the upcoming Comiccon convention from July 08 to 10, 2016, it’s time to look forward to some exceptional .medical innovations on the not-so-distant horizon.

Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize moving forward

Winner of $10 million contest expected to be named in early 2017

By Mike Freeman | May 26, 2016 |

Tatiana Rypinski, a Johns Hopkins student, heads Team Aezon, which is one of seven contestants remaining in the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize competition.

Now in its fifth year, the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize competition — which aims to create a portable medical device akin to the fictional tricorder of Star Trek fame — is moving toward naming a winner in early 2017.

The ambitious milestones for teams trying to develop the tricorder have been eased a bit. Instead of being capable of diagnosing 16 conditions without the help of a physician as originally proposed, the tricorders now must diagnose 13 ailments.

And the number of remaining teams has dropped from 10 to seven. One team dropped out and two merged.

Now teams are refining and testing their tricorders in preparation for a preliminary evaluation slated at UC San Diego late this summer.

“What we are attempting to do is require teams to demonstrate to us a certain level of performance on their devices so that we can qualify them to come back at UCSD and enter the final phase,” said Grant Campany, senior director of the Tricorder XPrize.

The final evaluations — including tests with real patients and doctors — are expected to begin in September and continue into early next year. San Diegans who wish to volunteer can email or call (858) 230-4339.

When it officially kicked off in early 2012, the Tricorder XPrize expected to name a winner early this year. But building a hand-held medical device that can continuously read five vital signs, diagnose conditions ranging from pneumonia to diabetes to urinary tract infection and still be easy to use for the layman has proven difficult.

“As with most XPrizes, we set the bar relatively high,” said Campany. “We like to say it is audacious yet achievable. We are trying to create a high hurdle because we want to see breakthroughs occur.”

UC San Diego built a regulatory/approval framework to pave the way for consumer testing of these experimental tricorders. That framework has been used by teams to conduct initial tests in their hometowns in preparation for this summer’s preliminary cut.

Team Final Frontier, for example, includes emergency room physician Basil Harris, who is getting feedback on the team’s device with patients in Pennsylvania, said Campany.

Team DMI of Boston, headed by physician Eugene Chan, has posters up at public transit stations to recruit volunteers, he added.

“I think we are all going to be pleasantly surprised at the improvements that these teams have made in their operating systems and how these devices operate without the interaction of a health care provider,” he said.

The Tricorder XPrize aims to push wireless medical technology into the mainstream. San Diego-based Qualcomm pledged the prize money. The company has long viewed mobile technology as key to cutting health care costs and improving results.

“When you look at the developing world, which has a shortage of doctors, how do you allow technology to step in and extend the reach of health care providers through these types of devices?” said Campany. “That is really what this is all about.”

In addition to Final Frontier and DMI, others teams are: Aezon, which is made up of undergraduate students from Johns Hopkins; CloudDX of Canada; Danvantri of India; Dynamical Biomarkers Group of Taiwan; and Scanadu/Intelesens from the U.S.