WA names finalists for $5m medtech challenge

Brandon How

The Western Australian government has named the 10 finalists that will compete in a $5 million digital health challenge that attracted almost 100 submissions from across the world.

Jointly funded by the state government’s Future Health Research and Innovation Fund and mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto, ‘The Challenge’ awards $200,000 to each finalist to prove their concept in the Pilbara. The grants have doubled since the program was announced in October.

At the conclusion of the 12-month challenge, the winning project will receive a $5 million prize, to be announced in October 2024.

The finalists’ projects range from a University of Western Australia- built ‘Transformative Interconnected Digital Ecosystem’ aimed at improving communication between health information platforms to local genomics company DermR Health’s novel microneedle patch that quickly extracts skin cells, with the results serving as a pre-screening for skin cancers.

While the project attracted international attention, the 10 finalists are all Australian, with eight from Western Australia. There were 93 submissions in total, some of which came from companies with a presence in India, the United States, Southeast Asia, and Europe.

Road train in the Pilbara

The Pilbara takes up 20 per cent of the Western Australian landmass but has an estimated population density of about 0.17 persons per square kilometre. First Nations people make up 14 per cent of the region’s population while the national average is 2.5 per cent.

Proof of concepts are expected to begin in July. The finalists’ projects are:

  • Pilbara Digital Twin by Telstra Health
  • Pilbara Engage – Digital Care Pathways by Curve Tomorrow, WeGuide and DiabetesWA
  • Healthy Connections by Curtin University
  • Lyfe Languages by Women and Infants Research Foundation and Lyfe Languages project
  • Health Innovation – Transformative Interconnected Digital Ecosystem (HI-TIDE) by the University of Western Australia
  • Dreamscape – Virtual Journeys – Health and Happiness by Real Serious Games
  • Chronic Disease Care on Country: Outreach Screening Incorporating Artificial Intelligence with Multidisciplinary Specialist Management by Lions Outback Vision and Lions Eye Institute
  • Digital Yarning Using Interoperable Computer Integration for Sharing Medical Records and Photographs to Close the Gap by CSIRO and South Metropolitan Health Service
  • The DermR Patch by DermR health Solutions
  • Smarter, Faster and Culturally Safer Virtual Care using XRAI Vision by Agili8

The Pilbara Digital Twin by Telstra Health will be the first synthetic chronic disease registry in Australia. The virtual replica of the Pilbara will also include digital avatars of the Yindjibarndi people, enabling researchers and policymakers to test new healthcare strategies and interventions in real time.

Real Serious Games, meanwhile, is developing a virtual reality platform to deliver culturally appropriate healthcare stories to support healthcare education in the Pilbara.

The 93 submission were judged in two stages, starting with a judging panel of research, innovation, digital health, and consumer advocacy experts that shortlisted the finalists. A second panel of local Pilbara stakeholders then decided on the 10 finalists from the shortlist.

Innovation and Digital Economy minister Stephen Dawson welcomed the international attention among the submissions to the Challenge and from big local players.

“It’s also great to see some of the major scientific agencies step up to The Challenge, with CSIRO, Telstra Health, Curtin University and the University of Western Australia among the finalists,” Mr Dawson said.

“I wish all ten finalists the best of luck as they embark on the next chapter of the competition – proving their concept works over 12 months.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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