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Nano-Bio Materials Consortium, AFRL release RFP for Smart MedTech innovations

A soft ultrasonic patch that continuously measures blood pressure waveforms is a current project at NBMC in collaboration with the Dr. Sheng Xu research group at the University of California, San Diego, Department of NanoEngineering. (Courtesy photo)

A soft ultrasonic patch that continuously measures blood pressure waveforms is a current project at NBMC in collaboration with the Dr. Sheng Xu research group at the University of California, San Diego, Department of NanoEngineering. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Nano-Bio Materials Consortium (NBMC), led by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in partnership with SEMI, have publicly released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for dual-use projects designed to accelerate Smart MedTech innovations in health monitoring, diagnostics and performance augmentation. AFRL has provided primary funding for the approximate $7 million fiscal year 2021 call for projects as part of its mission to address key capability and technology gaps in support of human performance monitoring and aeromedical evacuation.
 
NBMC was founded in 2013 to bring together scientists, engineers and business development professionals from industry, government and universities to collaborate in research and development. To date, NBMC has funded 26 separate projects, with more than 24 organizational participants. They have developed materials, electronics, microfluidics, manufacturing processes and algorithms to create low-cost, wearable sensors. Most of these integrated sensing systems communicate wirelessly, are flexible, and incorporate high-performance silicon devices that are designed to move with the individual. Previous advancements include subsystems designed for electrocardiograms, functionalized biomarker sensors, and hydration sensors.
 
This RFP will include three focused solicitations and an open solicitation: ambulatory monitoring capabilities, wearable technologies for fatigue and cognitive state assessment, flexible and alternative power sources for wearables, and open concepts for wearable or mobile human-monitoring and/or diagnostic capabilities.
 
Ambulatory monitoring capabilities deal with wearable devices. Some examples are a patch, glove, compression garment or sleeve, wristband, ear bud, finger sleeve, or finger ring. These devices would be used for monitoring vital signs and/or biochemistry for non-critical care patients in various situations, from the point of injury through traditional clinical environments.
 
Wearable technologies for fatigue and cognitive state assessment are used for monitoring, evaluating and mitigating the stress experienced by people in high-pressure occupations. A few examples are medical personnel, high-performance and long-haul drivers, pilots, emergency personnel and other critical response personnel.
 
The solicitation for flexible and alternative power sources for wearables is directed toward the development and demonstration of efficient and sustainable power sources, energy harvesting innovations, or novel nano- or meta-materials that could be used in monitoring human health.
 
NBMC’s research concentrates on the development of nano-bio materials. The goal is to use these materials to make devices that can close the gap between the science and the actual working technology. That technology includes small, sometimes wearable, devices for monitoring human biomarkers, such as blood pressure and biochemical levels, to assess physical performance or to help treat and prevent diseases.
 
“NBMC provides a valuable platform for AFRL to amplify R&D investments while working collaboratively with academia and industry,” said Matt Dalton, AFRL program manager and NBMC Governing Council member. “It gives us a means to develop cutting-edge Smart MedTech solutions that directly address en route care and aeromedical evacuation mission needs. The aerospace environment imposes unique challenges not only on patients, but also on the medical technology used for providing care. Here we can take those challenges into account from the outset of development.”
 
“This is a win-win opportunity for everyone,” added Dr. Gaurav Sharma, member of NBMC Governing Council and Senior Technical Lead for Cognitive Neuroscience, with AFRL's 711th Human Performance Wing. “It will not only help AFRL leverage cutting-edge extramural research, but it will also provide a platform for academic and industrial entities to develop technologies in close collaboration with AFRL researchers, who will also serve as a conduit for relaying the end-user’s (that is, the warfighter’s) feedback.”
 
“The technologies that we aim to develop with industry through this program will go beyond development of single sensor types to integrated sensing systems for monitoring airman health and performance,” said Dr. Larry Drummy, member of NBMC Technical Advisory Council. “Dual-use technologies, which can meet demands of military needs but can also be adopted into a commercially viable consumer or healthcare product, are of the greatest interest, as they provide the most sustainable path for the Air Force and Department of Defense.”
 
Industry and academic investigators, manufacturers and developers in the SMART MedTech supply chain are encouraged to review the RFP and respond in a two-stage process. In the first stage, white papers are to be submitted by October 20, at 5 p.m. PDT. In the second stage, the authors of selected white papers will be invited to submit full proposals by Dec. 10, 2020. Award notifications will be issued around Jan. 10, 2021.
 
To learn more about the RFP and the recently announced NBMC AFRL-Industry co-development pilot program, join the NBMC “Ask Me Anything” webinar Oct. 2, 2020, at 11 a.m. EDT that will review this year's solicitation and the proposal process, as well as provide guidance for proposal preparation and submission. To download the RFP, visit https://www.semi.org/sites/semi.org/files/2020-09/NBMC RFP 2020.pdf. For more information on NBMC, visit https://www.semi.org/en/communities/nbmc.
 
About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.