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$10 Million Prize For DIY Super-Imaging Device

October 24, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging
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The X PRIZE Foundation is planning to offer $10 million for the creation of a sort of super-imaging device—but one that aims to bypass radiologists, and for that matter all other health-care professionals.

The foundation, launched in 1995 and based in Playa Vista, California, became famous for the Ansari X PRIZE, offered in 1996 by its founder, entrepreneur Peter Diamandis. It awarded $10 million to the first privately financed team to build and send a three-passenger vehicle into space twice within two weeks—an award that was finally claimed in 2004. Last year, the foundation spread $10 million among the three winners of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE for clean, production-capable vehicles that could exceed 100 miles per gallon or its energy equivalent.

And the foundation hopes, early next year, to offer another $10 million incentive: the Tricorder X PRIZE, named after the all-knowing medical diagnostic device wielded by Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the original Star Trek TV series.

The foundation announced the prize, to be sponsored by Qualcomm, in May. At last week’s Center for Connected Health symposium in Boston, Eileen Bartholomew, the foundation’s senior director for life sciences prize development, offered more details, as reported by the CommonHealth blog of WBUR public radio station in Boston.

The device would have to diagnose 15 common medical conditions—12 “core diseases” plus 3 “elective diseases”—within three days, with no intervention from a health care professional. As disease examples, Bartholomew listed hypertension, sleep apnea, urinary tract infections, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Says Bartholomew in a video interview on the site:

It’s really about bringing precision consumer diagnostics on mobile platforms. We envision this as a competition to embrace novel diagnostic and sensing technology and really enabling customers and consumers to become CEOs of their own health.

As for the shape the device would take, that would be up to the competitors. Some sort of imaging would seemingly have to be involved.

Radiologists have enough short-term threats to worry about that they can be excused for not giving much thought to science-fiction medical scenarios that might play out in the next decade or two. But it’s not really that hard to imagine, for example, a woman showing up at a hospital and saying, “My Personal Digital Doctor tells me I have breast cancer. I uploaded the diagnostic scans and the PDD’s recommended course of treatment to my electronic health records on the cloud. You sent me back an appointment for my surgery, so here I am.”

What happens when, say, beds start coming equipped with built-in ultrasound functions? Or even MRI? Does that sound far-fetched? Well, so does a consumer device that would diagnose 15 different diseases. But the X PRIZE Foundation expects that someone will invent one within three or four years of the unveiling of its prize.


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Related seminar: National Diagnostic Imaging Symposium™


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