My Thursday morning this week started with a visit to Jlabs for a presentation by NCI and NHLBI on small business grants and contracts for start-ups.  Ok, technically my morning started a bit earlier with a particularly poorly made soy cappuccino following my visit to the gym.

Many of you probably already know – but for those who don’t or just haven’t given it much thought – the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides grants and contracts to start-up companies.  The Jlabs presenters, NCI and NHLBI (National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute), are both part of NIH and review applications and grant funding for projects within their scientific areas. See here and here.

Although NIH funds basic research for academic institutions, the grants and contracts discussed here are specific toward “for profit” ventures.  They include funding for proof-of-concept stage projects as well as projects ready for further development. There are 2 granting routes, small business innovation research (SBIR) and small business technology transfer (STTR).  They have some differences in eligibility including the requirement for SBIR that the principle investigator/program director (PI/PD) must be primarily employed (>50%) by the company. There is a third route for funding which is contract solicitations.  For this route, the institutes have specific research topics for which they solicit proposals and provide funding.

A number of the institutes and centers with the NIH have a keen interest in the emerging digital health technologies, particularly new developments to interface with existing medical technology.  For example, the solicited contracts for NCI include development of algorithms for cancer symptom assessment and treatment, mobile apps for reporting toxicities after radiation therapy, sensor technology integration with mobile devices, algorithms for image scanning and treatment planning for radiology, and AI tools for radiation therapy.   Note that applications for these 2018 contracts are due October 20, 2017.

Also of interest from the Jlabs talk were the other start-up opportunities provided by NIH.  These include mentoring and coaching, funding to present at conferences and opportunities to pitch to investors.  For example, the NIH I-Corps is a multi-week entrepreneurship training with web-based classes that focus on market strategy and determining market-fit for products.  There are 3 tracks for this training: therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices, with digital health (classified as eHealth) falling with the diagnostics.  Small Biz Hangouts offers a series of YouTube videos on subjects ranging from regulatory requirements to commercialization plans, patent issues and reimbursement basics.

Check it out if you are looking for early-stage funding possibilities and additional start-up guidance.  Also, the Jlabs talks happen throughout the year in many locales with a focus on topics of interest to life-science related start-ups.