Startups, Events

Startups pitch their solutions to the opioid epidemic at Health 2.0

The $50,000 challenge was sponsered by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help find a tech-enabled approach to addressing substance abuse of opioids.

Opioid pills

In the United States, an estimated 2.5 million people struggle with addiction to opioids and every day more than 115 people die from opioid overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The growing issue has policymakers, the pharmaceutical industry and increasingly entrepreneurs scrambling to find a solution.

At Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, finalists in the $50,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Opioid Challenge pitched their ideas on using technology to help support substance abuse treatment and connect individuals suffering from the condition.

The winner of the top prize was Boston-based Sober Grid, which was founded in 2015 and functions as the world’s largest social media application, specifically dedicated to those with substance abuse issues. Sober Grid has been funded by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Science Foundation.

Currently company has more than 130,000 members in recovery from substance abuse disorders, including more than 23,000 users dealing with substance abuse issues with opioids.

To help reduce the probability of relapse for users, Sober Grid’s platform helps locate nearby treatment centers and offers AI-triggered notifications that can notify family and friends, as well as telehealth capabilities that can connect users to professional and peer counselors.

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Earlier this year, the company acquired Ohio peer recovery coaching service Ascent allowing them to provide HIPPA-compliant counseling on their application.

Second place winner was Data Cubed, a New York-based life sciences tech startup that has developed what it’s calling ResQ, a video game app that is focused on fighting opioid addiction through surveys and games that can track behavior trends and decision-making.

The company claims it’s able to boost resilience to relapse by mobilizing a user’s social support network when there is a high risk of relapse.

In third place was HashTag, started by a group of Carnegie Mellon University graduate students, has built the Hope band, a wearable device with the ability to detect opioid overdose and an associated mobile app that can notify emergency services or contacts of overdose.

The device, which is meant to work with existing harm reduction techniques, monitors the user’s blood oxygen levels and alerts bystanders and emergency services if it senses an issue. The company said they are eventually looking to eventually pursue regulatory approval with the FDA.

Second place walked away with a $15,000 prize and third place received $10,000. The three startups were already whittled down from a larger pool of nearly a hundred other companies focused on addressing the opioid epidemic.

Photo: Getty Images, VladimirSorokin