Tag Archives: innovation

NFL & GE Announce Six Final Winners of $10 Million Head Health Challenge I

GE (NYSE: GE) and the NFL announced today the six final winners of the up to $10 million Head Health Challenge I. Banyan Biomarkers, Inc., San Diego, Calif.; BrainScope Company, Inc. Bethesda, Md.; Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis.; Quanterix, Lexington, Mass.; University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Santa Barbara, Calif.; and University of Montana, Missoula, Mont.; each will receive a $500,000 award to advance their work to speed diagnosis and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injury. This award is in addition to $300,000 previously awarded to the 16 first round winners of the Head Health Challenge I.

The goal of Head Health Challenge I is to improve the safety of athletes, members of the military and society overall. The winners were selected from an initial group of 16 challenge winners that were chosen from more than 400 entries from 27 countries, after having been reviewed and nominated by a panel of leading healthcare experts in brain research, imaging technologies, and advocates for advances in brain research.

“We are truly impressed by the quality of the work and the measurable progress being made by these winning organizations,” said Alan Gilbert, director health policy, government and community strategy for GE healthymagination. “There are a number of breakthrough ideas that are advancing our understanding of the brain and have applications not only on the playing field but also extend to neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.”

Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy said, “It’s exciting to witness the breakthroughs accomplished by the winners. Their efforts will truly advance the science around brain injury. We look forward to continuing to support this work and benefiting not only football and other sports, but society more broadly.”

Challenge I Final Award Winners and their areas of research and innovation:

Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. San Diego, Calif. – Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. is developing a point-of-care blood test to rapidly detect the presence of mild and moderate brain trauma to improve the medical management of head injured patients. Researchers from Banyan Biomarkers and the University of Florida are collaborating on a sports concussion study to analyze biomarkers, neurocognitive testing, and neuroimaging on student athletes. Banyan Biomarkers expects twenty blood-based markers for head injury will be added to the study in the coming year which will help provide researchers a better understanding of the biochemical pathways that occur in the brain after a concussion and, ultimately, assist to develop treatments to improve clinical outcomes.

BrainScope Company, Inc. Bethesda, Md. – BrainScope, in collaboration with the Purdue Neurotrauma Group, conducted a study of athletes using both neuroimaging tools as well as BrainScope’s urgent care, handheld, EEG-based traumatic brain injury detection technology. The research supported the utility of the BrainScope markers as a surrogate for neuroimaging and revealed its potential to identify those with increased vulnerability and susceptibility to concussion. BrainScope is developing a concussion assessment system to identify concussed from non-concussed patients and provide a method for assessment of concussed patients over time. This system in development is intended for use by clinicians from initial point-of-care assessment to rehabilitation of head-injured patients.

Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis. – Using MRI scanning technology, researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin are determining the direct effects of sports-related concussions on brain structure and function. The aim of the study is to advance the discovery of more objective biomarkers to assist in diagnosing concussion, determining when an athlete’s brain has fully recovered, and clinical decision making about the athlete’s fitness to return to play after a concussion.

Quanterix, Lexington, Mass. – Quanterix has developed a simple blood test to aid in the detection of traumatic brain injury. Using its Simoa technology, Quanterix is able to measure molecular signatures (biomarkers) of brain injury in blood. Quanterix is working to detect and quantify mild to moderate traumatic brain injury almost immediately after the injury has taken place, which will help to better predict the long-term prognosis of individuals who have undergone acute and repetitive injuries. Quanterix’s goal is to provide a blood test that speeds the diagnosis of a concussion in a clinical setting and on the sidelines in a sports arena, therefore improving and accelerating treatment.

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Santa Barbara, Calif. – The UCSB Brain Imaging Center, in collaboration with faculty in the computer sciences, is developing statistical methods to detect damage to the deep connections in the brains of patients after a mild head injury. Recent breakthroughs in both MRI scanning and data analysis make it possible to detect subtle brain changes in individual patients after mild concussions. This approach will be tested with clinical data from collaborators using a variety of MRI scanners.

University of Montana, Missoula, Mont. – Researchers at the University of Montana have identified blood-based biomarkers that indicate how the brain reacts following a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Research over the past year has demonstrated changes in specific plasma microRNAs (micro ribonucleic acids) in TBI patients over a period of several months. The identification and validation of these markers could help with diagnosis and assessing recovery after a head injury as well as testing the effectiveness of new treatments for TBI.

Launched in March 2013, the Head Health Challenge is part of the Head Health Initiative, a four-year, $60 million collaboration between GE and the NFL to speed diagnosis and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injury. The initiative includes a four-year, $40 million research and development program from the NFL and GE to evaluate and develop next generation imaging technologies to improve diagnosis that would allow for targeting treatment therapy for patients with mild traumatic brain injury.

In addition to Challenge I, GE and the NFL launched two additional open innovation challenges to invest in research and technology development to better understand, diagnose and protect against brain injury. Challenge II was initiated by GE, the NFL and Under Armour to uncover new innovations and materials that better protect the brain from traumatic injury and new tools for tracking head impacts in real time. GE, the NFL and Under Armour also have partnered with the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to launch Head Health Challenge III, an open innovation competition to promote next generation materials that better absorb or dissipate energy. These new materials could improve the performance of protective equipment for athletes, military personnel and those in dangerous occupations.


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Rewarding Innovation to Reduce Head Injury Risk

By Jeffrey R. Immelt and Roger Goodell

This is the time of the year when the eyes of fans and media are trained squarely on the best two teams in football.

As big as the Super Bowl is, however, it’s one game among thousands of football games that are played in organized leagues each year – and one among millions of recreational football games played for sheer fun in every community in the United States. And in the broader scope, football is just one of an array of physical sports played by kids and adults.  Regardless of age, gender or ability, there are great benefits to sports that challenge us physically – football, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, basketball among them – and require speed and finesse, balance and strength.

We both played organized football growing up. And while neither of us rose to the level of a professional athlete, what we learned through playing team sports was fundamental to who we are today.  Sports humanize, teach the value of teamwork, and improve bodies and minds.

As is true of any benefit, however, team sports come with an element of risk. We strongly believe that the benefits far outweigh the risks, but parents and athletes are rightly concerned about the potential for injury.

Those concerns include the risk of concussion, which is difficult to diagnose, treat, and prevent.  That’s in large part because there continue to be great holes in the scientific and medical understanding of the brain.

We are making a tangible commitment toward accelerating progress in our knowledge of the brain – how it works, how it can be better protected, and how we can help it to recover from injury.

A little over a year ago, we began discussing how we could bring the power and resources of our collective organizations to change that equation.  Last year, together with Under Armour, we announced a “Head Health Initiative” – a $60 million partnership aimed at jump-starting new research and technology into the brain.  This week we announced our first grant awards.

Among the winning proposals are:

  • A blood test to rapidly identify and measure mild traumatic brain injury
  • A brain imaging technique to identify connections broken in the brain after a traumatic brain injury
  • An electroencephalography (EEG) that may serve as an on-field imaging test

These ideas are designed to help doctors identify brain injury and improve their ability to manage recovery.  Small intrusions like pinpricks of blood or a brief sideline exam of brainwaves would convey who is injured and who is recovered.

Technology helps us communicate better, be more mobile and live better lives. But it has not yet been as effective as it could be in the diagnosis or treatment of concussions.  Even though almost all of us will engage in sports at some point in our lives, the culture of tech entrepreneurialism has not been fully harnessed to better protect kids and adults playing sports.

This initiative – an open call for proposals to find and fund start-up, breakthrough technologies – is designed to change that equation.

We looked for two qualities in making these awards:

First, we want solutions that can be broadly applied.  We want to understand how injuries impact connections in the brain and how to cure them, regardless of where they occur. Beyond sports, the discoveries from this program will help doctors, parents and patients better address brain injuries across the general population.

Second, we are committed to making real impact in the short term.  The grant winners were chosen, in part, on their ability to create life-changing tools, treatments and devices that can play out in real time.  Research, fact-based analysis and disciplined peer review are important, but so are results that can be put into action to help today’s athletes at all levels.

We still love a good pickup game, though we have to admit that our best playing days are probably behind us. But as parents, sports fans, and stewards of the games we love, we have a sense of urgency to bring the best minds to the table to address this great challenge.

Investing in technology and research is the most direct path to the results we all want: improved diagnosis, treatment, and protection for brain injuries.  Our aim in rewarding innovation is to reduce risk in sports – not just for elite athletes on the biggest stage next Sunday, but for all of us.

Jeffrey R. Immelt is CEO of GE; Roger Goodell is Commissioner of the NFL

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Valdosta State Says It is Cycling Out Old Helmets

The Valdosta State athletic department revealed recently that it has spent more than $10,000 on at least 20 additional Riddell and Schutt football helmets in its continuing bid to enhance the safety of student athletes.

VSU athletic director Herb Reinhard told the media that “what we do at Valdosta State and what you see across college football is that schools are looking at their equipment—making sure they’ve got the most up-to-date equipment.”schutt-vengeance-1

Reinhard added that the introduction of safer helmets is part of an ongoing campaign.

“We’ve added about 80 helmets over the last two years,” Reinhard said. “We’ve been able to put more helmets into our inventory to cycle out older or simply adequate helmets.”

VSU Director of Sports Medicine Russ Hoff said the school uses the rating system developed by Virginia Tech in selecting helmets.

“We looked at helmets that were rated highly on Virginia Tech’s star-rating system,” he said. “We got more than one vendor because helmets fit people differently. We’ve diversified our inventory by manufacturer but we still utilize the star-rating system to choose what are considered higher-quality helmets.”

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