Winners of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE for Medical Laboratory Testing Were Announced in April, Five Years After the Competition Began
More than 312 teams applied for the completion and the prize-winning hand-held device uses clinical laboratory assays to diagnose up to 34 different medical conditions
Star Trek fans among clinical laboratory manager and pathologist will be excited to learn that the winners of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE were announced earlier this year, five years after the contest began. The purpose of the XPRIZE competition was to challenge teams to create a mobile integrated diagnostic device that weighed less than five pounds and had the ability to monitor health metrics and diagnose 13 specific health conditions. The premise for the contest was inspired by the Star Trek medical tricorder that was first conceptualized on the television show “Star Trek” in the 1960s.
In the popular science-fiction show, the tricorder was a multifunctional hand-held device used for sensor scanning, data analysis, and recording data. The name “tricorder” was an abbreviation for the full name of the gadget, “tri-function recorder,” which referred to the three primary functions of the device.
Based in Culver City, Calif, the XPRIZE Foundation is a non-profit organization that creates and oversees prestigious technological competitions for the purpose of prompting innovations that could benefit humanity.
Handheld Device That Can Perform Multiple Clinical Laboratory Assays
The Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition was launched in January 2012. Participants had until August 2013 to register for the contest. The qualifying round was held the following August. Three hundred and twelve teams entered the competition. Qualifiers had until March 2015 to design and build their prototypes. Consumer testing on the products began in September 2016 and the winners were announced in April 2017.
The top prize of $2.6 million was awarded to Final Frontier Medical Devices, the team led by Basil Harris, MD, an emergency room physician with a PhD in Materials Engineering led the team, along with his network engineer brother, George Harris.
The collection of FDA-approved devices that make up the “tricorder” includes sensors designed to gather data about vital signs, body chemistry, and biological functions. The DxtER device walks patients through the self-diagnosis of 34 medical conditions. The instruments include:
· A compact spirometer that calculates lung strength;
· A test kit for Mononucleosis;
· A heart rate monitor;
· A respiration monitor;
· The DxtER Orb, a digital stethoscope that also serves as a thermometer; and
· An artificial intelligence (AI) “engine” that diagnoses medical conditions.
DxtER communicates with a tablet and/or smartphone-based app. Since the components are FDA-approved, diagnostic test results can be taken directly to healthcare professionals.
“You can [receive the] results and take them to the ER or to your physician or whoever’s helping you, and they can build off those results,” George Harris explained in an Engadget article. “They don’t have to start back at square one. They can jump off at that point and move on with their healthcare.”
According to the contest website, “at the heart of DxtER is an artificially intelligent engine that learned to diagnose by integrating years of experience in clinical emergency medicine with data analysis from actual patients having a variety of medical conditions and outcomes.”
“It is very exciting that our vision of mobile, personalized patient-centric healthcare is getting closer to becoming a reality thanks to the great work of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE teams,” declared Paul E. Jacobs, PhD, Executive Chairman of Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ:QCOM) in an XPRIZE press release. “Creating technology breakthroughs in an industry as complex as healthcare is quite a milestone, and what these teams accomplished is a great stepping stone to making mobile healthcare a viable option across the world.”
DxtER Functions Like a Mobile Medical Laboratory
In addition to the $2.6-million prize, Qualcomm Foundation is giving the Basil Leaf team $3.8 million to further develop the device. This amount includes a:
· $2.5 million proposal grant to the University of California San Diego; and a
· $1.6-million gift from the Roddenberry Foundation to adapt the tricorder for hospital use in the developing world.
The XPRIZE competition required contestants to create a tricorder device that could accurately diagnose 13 health conditions. This included 10 core conditions and a choice of three elective health conditions. The devices also needed to be able to acquire five real-time vital signs:
1. Blood pressure;
2. Heart rate;
3. Oxygen saturation;
4. Respiratory rate; and
The 10 core conditions the devices had to be able to identify were:
8. Sleep Apnea;
9. Urinary Tract Infection; and
10. Absence of condition.
The contest also required participants to choose three elective conditions from the following list:
· Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) screen;
· Shingles, and
· Strep throat.
It is notable that the TriCorder XPRIZE—with its $2.6 million prize—generated entries from 312 teams. Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers can take this high number of entrants as a sign that the ongoing advances in technology are poised to support a new generation of very small medical lab testing devices. Thus, miniaturized diagnostic technologies, when combined with more sophisticated computing chips and software are making it simpler and more feasible to pack multiple diagnostic instruments into a hand-held package.