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Bright ideas awarded grants to develop technology aimed at combating opioid epidemic

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Late last year, Ohio put out the call to the best of the best, seeking new ideas and innovative technology to combat the opioid epidemic in the state. 

Hundreds of average citizens, researchers, caregivers and service providers from across Ohio, the U.S. and nine countries participated, submitting bold and creative ideas that identify ways to accelerate solutions. 

"Ohio put out the call for new ideas and people from across the world responded," said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency and chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission. "This issue affects countless individuals, families, and communities, so we're thrilled by the level of response and excited to move these ideas forward and save lives."

The Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge leverages $8 million of a $20 million commitment to advance new ideas and find new technology-based solutions. 

The Challenge is a multi-phase, multi-million-dollar prize competition with escalating prize amounts associated with progressive levels of solution development.

Officials say the breadth of the idea spread from diagnostic capabilities, treatment options, pain management tools, new information technology to enhance patient care, tools to help law enforcement and first responders. 

A panel of judges looked over the submissions and determined the top 5 ideas. 

The top five ideas from this first phase of the Challenge received $10,000 prizes:

Judson Brewer (Worcester, Massachusetts) suggested a digital therapeutic centered on the psychological theory of mindfulness, adapted from his nationally-known Craving to Quit program. The idea would apply this program to opioid addiction and bridge the gap between currently-available treatments and developing new digital solutions.

Kinametechs LLC (Cincinnati, Ohio) Yong Pei and the team at Kinametechs suggested an augmented reality (AR)-based interactive coaching system. The idea would use motion tracking technologies to customize a patient's physical rehabilitation routine and enhance the results of therapy. This improved physical rehabilitation would reduce a patient's need for prescription pain medication and lessen their potential for addiction.

Lee Barrus (Oren, Utah) and the team at InteraSolutions suggested an opioid risk assessment screening app to identify patients with risk factors for opioid abuse. The idea would enable medical professionals to flag at-risk patients and direct them towards alternative methods of pain management, preventing a potential path towards opioid dependence.

The Edification Project (Boston, Massachusetts) team suggested a virtual reality (VR) technology focused on preventing addiction in teens and young adults. The idea would make these groups aware of the risks and dangers associated with opioids and help frame their attitudes toward avoiding opioid abuse.

The University of Dayton Research Institute (Dayton, Ohio) suggested Kelly Cashion's research in neurofeedback be applied to medical technology that uses neurological sensors to provide real-time information to patients about their brain activity. The idea would empower patients to better understand the effects of addiction on their brains, take back control, and accelerate their path towards recovery.

Forty runners-up, 20 civilians, and 20 technical professionals or experts will be entered into a drawing to win $500 cash prizes.

This second phase will seek out the expertise of the business and innovation community to help advance technology challenges into solutions. 

In the final phase of the Challenge, the most promising solutions will receive funding to refine and cultivate the solution into a product.

The state also made available $12 million for research-and-development grants.

In August, Youngstown State University applied for  $350,000 of those grant funds to develop new technology to help battle addiction. 


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