Sector News

Still looking for the perfect face mask? The U.S. government is, too

April 10, 2021
Life sciences

Like much of the rest of the world, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has just about had it with mask-induced acne and eczema, glasses fog, indecipherable conversations and stifled breathing.

In a last-ditch attempt to solve these societal ills, HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority—known as BARDA, the specialized agency that typically takes on viral outbreaks, bioterrorist attacks and nuclear incidents—has put out the call for new mask designs that battle both discomfort and coronavirus-carrying droplets, with $500,000 in prizes.

With help from the equipment-certifying National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the “Mask Innovation Challenge” is now accepting submissions for what can only be described as a miracle in face mask form.

They must be cheap and simple to mass-produce, while also being widely accessible and effective in blocking transmission of COVID-19. Bonus points go to those that solve the challenges of unreadable facial expressions, intelligible speech, incompatibility with glasses, irritating contact dermatitis, discomfort caused by prolonged wear and the feeling of being suffocated.

After the submission period closes April 21, the creative geniuses found to have invented “tomorrow’s mask” will move on to a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition. Up to 10 finalists will receive up to $10,000 each, plus access to BARDA’s scientific expertise to build their prototypes.

Those finalists will then advance to testing in NIOSH labs, and up to five of the best designs will split a $400,000 grand prize.

“We know that properly and consistently worn face masks help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory infections, but many people are reluctant to wear them for a variety of reasons,” Nikki Bratcher-Bowman, HHS’ acting assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said in a release. “With this mask challenge, we want to get people across the country involved in developing new masks that are both effective and comfortable.”

Crowdsourcing has been a popular method for creating masks that people will actually wear. In December, the XPrize Foundation closed a similar competition, which called on inventors between the ages of 15 and 24 to design “the next generation of face masks.”

The winning design, which was awarded $500,000 and was designed by a team of students from Arizona State University, features adjustable elastic straps around the ears and chin, an outer mesh layer that can be customized with different colors and patterns, and a dual-chamber design separating exhaled air from the face, preventing fogging and overheating.

by Andrea Park

Source: fiercebiotech.com

comments closed

Related News

June 24, 2022

Echosens and Novo Nordisk announce partnership to increase awareness and advance early diagnosis of NASH

Life sciences

Echosens, a high-technology company offering liver diagnostic solutions, and Novo Nordisk A/S, a leading global healthcare company, announced a partnership to advance early diagnosis of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and increase awareness of the disease among patients, healthcare providers and other stakeholders.

June 24, 2022

argenx receives positive CHMP opinion for Efgartigimod for the treatment of adult patients with Generalized Myasthenia Gravis in Europe

Life sciences

Positive opinion based on Phase 3 ADAPT trial showing efgartigimod provided clinically meaningful improvements in strength and quality of life measures. If approved, efgartigimod will be the first neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) blocker for the treatment of adults in Europe living with rare neuromuscular disease generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG).

June 24, 2022

Galapagos finally takes M&A plunge, spending $251M for 2 biotechs in CAR-T push

Life sciences

Galapagos CEO Paul Stoffels, M.D., has finally taken the plunge on M&A. The newly minted chief executive has signed not one but two deals in an attempt to right the ship, bringing two small biotechs aboard for a combined 239 million euros ($251.4 million).