Astraeus Technologies Wins the 2016 PIA IDEAS Challenge on Mobile Phones and Behavior Change and ValueMe Takes Home the IDEAS Grand Prize

April 12, 2016

We are excited to announce that Astraeus Technologies has won the 2016 Practical Impact Alliance (PIA) IDEAS Challenge on Mobile Phones and Behavior Change and will be awarded $10,000 to advance their technology.

Astraeus Technologies has developed a noninvasive malaria diagnostic test consisting of a simple Near Field Communication (NFC) tag, the M-CARD, which along with its accompanying smart phone app, can detect a particular gas that malaria patients exhale. This gas not only corresponds with the presence of malaria, but can also be used to measure patient responsiveness to malaria treatment. Existing malaria rapid tests require blood samples and have lower accuracy rates. With the M-CARD, patients would simply breathe on the CARD to receive inexpensive, more accurate and noninvasive screening. The technology also has potential applications in early screening of various types of cancer, and the team has already begun work on developing their lung cancer diagnostic, the L-CARD. The Astraeus team is currently working on setting up clinical trials toward FDA approval for both applications. We look forward to seeing further development of this life-saving early diagnostic technology!

The MIT IDEAS Global Challenge supports innovation, service, and social entrepreneurship among MIT students through an annual competition that awards prizes to the best ideas to tackle barriers to wellbeing. The MIT Practical Impact Alliance (PIA) sponsored this challenge, which was rooted in its 2015 working group on Mobile Phones and Behavior Change. With the global proliferation of mobile phones, many social enterprises and organizations have been using mobile devices as a platform for sharing information and encouraging behavior change. PIA challenged MIT student teams to develop scalable solutions for behavior change interventions using mobile technology. D-Lab held two events to help connect teams to mentors and four of the PIA members served as judges during the showcase. Of the 46 final IDEAS entrants, 17 teams were eligible for the mobile phones and behavior change challenge, and six were among the contest winners, including the top IDEAS Global Challenge prize awarded to ValueMe.

Photo credit: Ben Bocko, MIT News

The ValueMe team, which strives to combat malnutrition in the senior citizen population of the U.S. won first prize at the final showcase on April 2nd and was awarded $15,000. ValueMe developed an algorithm that instantly converts a grocery list into its equivalent nutrition summary based on USDA databases, and provides personalized recommendations to meet the user’s nutritional needs. This will happen in real time at the cash register where the person will receive discounts – subsidized by their health insurance company – on those items included in his or her nutritional plan as advised by his or her doctor or nutritionist. ValueMe has recently partnered with AARP and will be using their award to conduct a pilot study in Philadelphia with AARP’s Hunger Team.

Other awards in the Mobile Phone and Behavior Change category went to Muhit, a crowdsourcing platform that allows citizens, local representatives and municipalities in Turkey to collaboratively improve their living environment; dot Learn, software packages that include full online courses (including videos, exercises and interactive modules) into tiny packets of ~5MB which students can download, transfer and access fully offline on any mobile device; Flare, an integrated emergency response system for Africa, designed to reduce response time and optimize ambulance usage; and Ricult, a market place platform accessible through low cost feature phone (SMS/IVR) to connect farmers directly to buyers, farm input sellers, banks, logistics, and critical farming information.

At PIA we are thrilled about the success of this first edition of the PIA sponsored IDEAS challenge and are looking forward to supporting our MIT entrepreneurs to advance their innovative ideas to sustainable ventures.