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NIH Looks for Wearable Blood-Alcohol Sensor

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), just launched a competition for wearable devices capable of measuring blood alcohol in near-real time. The device ideally would be able to measure alcohol in the blood or fluid from the body’s cells, instead of the existing technology that measures alcohol via sweat.

Winners will be awarded $200,000, and second place will receive $100,000.

“I expect tangible breakthroughs in real-time alcohol-sensing technology through this competition,” said George F. Koob, director of NIAAA. “Creative solutions could include the adaptation and miniaturization of technologies such as spectroscopy or wave technology or other designs. I think we can build on the success of our first challenge, which made important strides in improving transdermal alcohol sensing.”

The device would help improve the accuracy of alcohol studies, many of which currently rely on unreliable self-reporting to measure drinking and alcohol levels. The results can be used to treat alcohol use disorder, liver disease, HIV/AIDS, and more.

The wearable could also be used for consumers who want to track personal drinking patterns.

“We have learned that there is real interest in the private sector around wearable alcohol biosensors, and that innovation using distinct means of alcohol detection are on the horizon,” said Kathy Jung, director of NIAAA’s Division of Metabolism and Health Effects. “We want to continue to harness the power of the private sector because if alcohol biosensors become a part of the ‘wearable toolbox,’ then tangible new opportunities will become available that will profoundly affect the field of alcohol research.”

Submissions must include a working prototype and data proving the prototype’s reliability, and will be accepted until May 15, 2017. Judging will take place throughout May, June, and July, and winners will be announced in August 2017.

More details about the competition can be found here: http://niaaa.nih.gov/research/challenge-prize.

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