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Posted on
January 9, 2023

NIA-funded a2 Collective Awards First Tranche of $40M to Spur Innovation at the Intersection of AI, Technology, and Aging in the United States

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Jan. 9, 2023—The a2 Collective announced today the selection of 33 pilot projects for a2 Pilot Awards funding as part of a national AgeTech competition that has allocated $40 million to fund technology demonstration projects over the next five years. The a2 Pilot Awards support projects seeking to improve care and health outcomes for older Americans, including individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (AD/ADRD), and their caregivers.

The first a2 Pilot Awards cohort includes projects using novel technology approaches to address cognitive decline (61%), frailty (18%), comorbidity (18%), delirium (12%), palliative care (9%), social isolation (9%), and visual impairment (3%). Together, these projects will receive more than $6.7 million.

The a2 Collective represents the Artificial Intelligence and Technology Collaboratories (AITC) for Aging Research program, a unique, national resource dedicated to advancing AgeTech and elder care through partnerships with industry, health care systems and payers, clinicians and researchers, venture capitalists, and public health institutions. Funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a part of the National Institutes of Health, the program includes three research Collaboratories centered at Johns Hopkins University (JH AITC), the University of Massachusetts Amherst (MassAITC), and the University of Pennsylvania (PennAITech) and a Coordinating Center that harmonizes program activities.

The a2 Pilot Awards competition is driven by abroad mandate to leverage technology, including artificial intelligence (AI)and machine learning (ML), to address a range of challenges related to aging and AD/ADRD. Each AITC selects projects to fund with up to $200,000 in direct costs over a one-year period, during which awardees also receive access to resources and mentorship from AITC experts in fields including computer science, nursing, engineering, and medicine.

“We are excited that more than 40% of projects in the first cohort are led by women, significantly outpacing the less than 25%of AI jobs globally that are held by women,”[i] said Rose Li, MBA, PhD, principal investigator for the a2 Collective Coordinating Center.

In addition to the strong representation of women among applicants and selected awardees, nearly half of the applications for the first a2 Pilot Awards came from private companies and many selected projects represent collaborations between the private sector and academia.

According to Niteesh Choudhry, MD, PhD, co-director for MassAITC and professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the built-in engagement with a robust network of experts and resources is part of what sets the AITC program apart.

“An a2 Pilot Award comes with intensive mentoring support from a multidisciplinary team that can assist with aspects of a project ranging from to technology validation to stakeholder engagement to actual implementation,” said Dr. Choudhry.

Though AI/ML is not a requirement for funding, more than 85% of pilot projects in the first cohort include an AI or ML component.

“We are particularly interested in tapping the vast potential and rapid growth of AI to serve the needs of a rapidly increasing population of older adults,” said Esther Oh, MD, PhD, co-director of JH AITC Pilot Core A, which focuses on AD/ADRD. “This growing market represents an important opportunity at the intersection of technology, health, and economics.

”Specific technology approaches utilized in this first cohort of pilot projects include sensors (52%), wearables (30%), computer vision (30%), natural language processing (30%), virtual reality (6%), and robotics (3%). Several pilots combine multiple technologies to gather, analyze, and interpret data; implement interventions; and prevent adverse events among older adults, individuals with AD/ADRD, and caregivers.

“We are inspired by the range of technologies represented among our awardees and look forward to serving as a testbed for these innovative applications,” said Kathryn Bowles, PhD, RN, co-director of the PennAITech Aging Focus Pilot Core. “These emerging technologies will help Americans remain at home to live longer and healthier lives.”

The selection of finalists for the second annual a2 Pilot Awards is currently underway, with announcement of awardees anticipated in spring 2023. The a2 Collective will accept applications for its third annual competition from May 1 to July 31, 2023. Innovators in a range of settings—including tech startups, academic institutions, and research organizations—are encouraged to apply.

Visit a2collective.ai/awardees to view the full list and descriptions of all 33 projects selected for funding in the first a2 Pilot Awards cohort.

The a2 Collective is funded by grantsU24AG073094, P30AG073104, P30AG073105, and P30AG073107 from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.

[i] World Economic Forum (2021). Global Gender Gap Report 2021. https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2021.pdf