SOMERVILLE, MASS. – The Baker-Polito Administration joined healthcare and technology leaders to celebrate the legacy of the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative, a statewide effort launched in January 2016, and to celebrate the finale of the 2nd Massachusetts Digital Health COVID-19 Recovery Challenge, a pitch competition supported by the Commonwealth and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The celebration was hosted by Mass General Brigham at their Assembly Row facility in Somerville and featured recorded remarks from Governor Charlie Baker who noted that when the Initiative was launch in January 2016, “the goal was to grow the digital health sector across the state, to boost our innovative startups, and to make Massachusetts a hub for digital hub.” In his remarks, the Governor highlighted several successes of the Initiative, including the launch of the R&D-focused Digital Health Sandbox Network, which has grown from one facility to ten statewide, as well as the Commonwealth’s support for digital health incubators such as MassChallenge HealthTech in Boston and TechSpring in Western Mass, and driving further innovation through competitions like the COVID-19 Recovery Challenge.
The Celebration was keynoted by Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, who acknowledged the truly statewide nature of the digital health ecosystem, and the growth of the Commonwealth as a hub for digital health for those outside the state.
“The Digital Health Initiative has provided support for healthcare innovation statewide, providing growing startups with support, guidance, and access to first-rate R&D facilities,” said Secretary Kennealy. “Bringing world-class events like the HLTH 2021 conference and federally funded competitions like this to Massachusetts shows the success our public-private partnership has had in boosting the profile of digital health statewide.”
Following the celebration of the Digital Health Initiative, the event transitioned to the finale of the COVID-19 Recovery Challenge, with four digital health startups pitching innovative digital health tools to support healthcare providers. The grand prize went to Slumber One of Boston, a Harvard spin-out that “uses a personalized, science-backed approach” to improve users’ sleep with psychology. For the win, the company will receive $100,000 in ‘tuition’ that will be used to complete their proposed project with the Brigham Digital Innovation Hub, a member of the Digital Health Sandbox Network.
This was the second competition hosted under the Recovery Challenge, having kicked off in March 2022 with the selection of eight companies. The eight companies went through an intensive accelerator program led by Lever Inc., which included lean startup workshops and tailored mentoring from experts that helped the companies develop products, streamline business plans, and hone their go-to-market strategy. MeHI matched the companies with R&D labs from the Massachusetts Digital Health Sandbox Network to scope their projects, which are designed to test and validate their solutions to help bring them to market faster.
“We’re incredibly grateful for the support from MeHI and Lever over the past 3 months,” said George Wang, founder of Slumber One. “Insomnia is a deeply personal issue for us, and with Slumber One we’re hoping to address the lack of access to in-person insomnia providers by delivering insomnia behavioral therapy via a mobile app. This innovation grant will allow us to work together with Brigham and Women’s hospital to demonstrate the clinical efficacy of our product, which represents a major milestone in our mission to improve the sleep for tens of millions of Americans.”
“Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the US and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is considered first line treatment,” said Dr. Sogol Javaheri, the principal investigator of the Slumber One study, Associate Director of Brigham and Women’s Sleep Medicine, and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. “Due to limited access to in person CBT-I, use of an affordable digital tool can have a wide public health impact. The Sandbox digital innovation grant will provide a much needed opportunity to extend this treatment option to a diverse group of patients suffering from insomnia.”
“The companies in this Challenge are each bringing innovations to support health care providers at a critical time,” said Jeffrey Thomas, Executive Director of Lever, Inc. “By delivering remote insomnia therapy at scale, Slumber One will have a triple impact: support for providers, support for their patients, and reduced patient care burden.”
The three other finalists, which will each receive $50,000 in Sandbox tuition were:
- BurnCam Medical of Boston;
- HealthJay of Palo Alto, Cal.; and
- Outcome Referrals of Framingham, Mass.
The Mass. Digital Health COVID-19 Recovery Challenge is sponsored by MeHI with support from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the SPRINT Challenge Grant program.
“Our thanks to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the EDA for their support of the Recovery Challenge program, which provided us the opportunity to engage with digital health startups nationwide and really leverage the know-how that our Massachusetts ecosystem is known for to advance these innovative, provider-focused solutions,” said Ben Linville-Engler, interim director of the Mass. eHealth Institute at MassTech (MeHI). “Helping these firms access the cutting-edge R&D centers will help take these innovative products to the next level and accelerate their pathway to impacting patients around the world.”
This is the second Challenge event in the series, following the completion of the first competition in December 2021 which focused on innovations to support unpaid family caregivers. That Challenge was won by Cambridge-based Kinto Care, a virtual platform that offers caregiver coaching, a personalized e-learning curriculum, and peer support groups.
In addition to the Challenge program, the Commonwealth also supports startup innovation through the Digital Health Sandbox program, managed by the Mass. eHealth Institute at MassTech. Launched in April 2019, the program provides grants for startups to work with facilities in the statewide R&D network, supporting Mass. digital health companies in product development and to expand the user base for the Sandbox facilities. The program is administered by MeHI with advice provided by an independent steering committee.
About the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech
The Massachusetts eHealth Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, is the Commonwealth’s entity for healthcare innovation, technology, and competitiveness, and partners with industry, government, and healthcare organizations to support the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative on behalf of Governor Charlie Baker. MeHI also helps all the Commonwealth’s providers harness the benefits of electronic health records and the Mass HIway, the statewide health information exchange. For more information, please visit https://mehi.masstech.org and follow @MassEHealth. Learn more about the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative at www.massdigitalhealth.org.
Founded in 2014, Lever is an economic development non-profit focused on innovation-driven job creation. Lever supports entrepreneurs with startup expertise, an investment fund, research, mentors, and access to talent. Lever has helped launch dozens of companies that have attracted more than $10M in equity investment and have created more than 200 jobs. Lever supports existing companies by helping their intrapreneurs “innovate from within” using proven entrepreneurial methods for top-line revenue growth and job creation. Since 2018, Lever has produced 11 Challenges in health technology and COVID response, awarding more than $400,000 in grants to Challenge winners. Lever's 2020-2021 COVID Challenge series, developed in partnership with MassTech, helped dozens of mature Massachusetts companies pivot to PPE production and helped six startups develop innovations to support COVID recovery. Learn more at www.leverinc.org.