Alzheimer’s on Our Mind: Investing in Alzheimer’s Technologies


By Dr. Ethel Rubin, Entrepreneur in Residence, National Institutes of Health.  (NIH is an ACA Annual Partner)

You don’t need to read these sobering stats to know that Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is decimating the aging population, quite literally. One in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s, and nearly two-thirds are women. Today, there are 5.5 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias (ADRA) in the US alone and the numbers are only rising. The burden to healthcare and care providers is likewise huge: $200 billion USD. At NIH, we are doing our part by using both the SBIR and other grant funding mechanisms to tackle the problem. It’s not just a focus area whose time has come, it’s mandated by law (Public Law 111-375 The National Alzheimer's Project Act of 2011). 

In the past couple of years, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) developed a strategic plan to support the development of innovative strategies and therapies to prevent, diagnose, and treat AD/ADRD. NIA has released several Funding Opportunity Announcements through its Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), which last year invested 65% of its $89M small business budget for novel therapies, diagnostic devices, mobile technology, and analytic tools for caregivers, health care programs, and practices to prevent the onset of AD/ADRD and to reduce the burden on individuals, their families, and society at large. Though competitive, NIA’s small business investment budget is increasing and likely to exceed $100M next year. Having earmarked a significant portion of its funding for AD, NIA is seeking companies with novel AD interventions, monitoring and caregiving tools, from assistive technologies for patients and caregivers to socially assistive robots which can aid in patient engagement, care and caregiver respite, among other uses. The full list of funding available to companies seeking to work on AD is available here.

If your portfolio includes a company with a technology that can benefit AD patients and their caregivers, there are three upcoming events for your entrepreneurs. Each event offers opportunities for face time with an NIA representative.

  1. NIA will be at JLABS in NYC, alongside the National Cancer Institute, on October 16. The new Chief of the Office of Small Business Research, Todd Haim, will present an overview of the NIA SBIR/STTR program and provide guidance on submitting competitive applications.

  1. NIA will be at the landmark outreach HHS SBIR Conference Oct 30-Nov 1 in Dallas. This three-day national Health and Human Services SBIR/STTR Conference is designed to educate attendees about America’s Largest Seed Fund and how to apply for these research and development dollars. With over $1 billion dollars of annual HHS funding, this is one of the largest sources of early-stage capital for technology commercialization in the United States. NIA SBIR Chief Dr. Todd Haim will be joined by colleagues including Dr. Dana Plude (Deputy Director in the Division of Behavioral and Social Research), grants management specialist Traci Lafferty, and Maureen Thomas, MPM: Small Business Outreach Coordinator.

  1. NIA & colleagues will be back on the east coast on November 16 for Meet with NIA, NCI, and NIAID in North Brunswick NJ, a seminar providing companies with an overview of the SBIR & STTR programs at the NIH. Following the morning seminar and a networking lunch, the speakers will be available for 1:1 appointments with attendees in the afternoon. To reserve a slot, register for the event, then send an email to rgharmon@njsbdc.com by November 12 with a 1-page technology overview and what the company wants to accomplish with SBIR funds.

Contact information as well as more information on NIA SBIR/STTR funding for AD and related dementias can be found at the NIA small business website. As always, you are welcome to email me. Great funding for great companies starts with great ideas. Let’s work together on great ideas to tackle Alzheimer’s!

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