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NCCIH Research Blog

Moving Promising Tools and Technologies Toward the Marketplace

April 22, 2016

John S. Williamson, Ph.D.

Branch Chief

Basic and Mechanistic Research in Complementary and Integrative Health Branch

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

In July 2014, I blogged about NCCIH’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Today, I’d like to tell you about two examples of mind and body projects that NCCIH has funded under these mechanisms.

As a quick refresher, Federal funding agencies have money set aside to support U.S. small businesses. Here at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), our goals for SBIR and STTR projects include:

  • Stimulating technological innovation.
  • Increasing the role of small businesses in meeting Federal research and development (R&D) needs.
  • Translating to the private sector and consumer use technologies that show promise for commercialization and public benefit. At NIH, that benefit focuses on improving health and saving lives.

These programs are the Nation’s largest source of early-stage, high-risk R&D funding for small businesses. NCCIH helps with funding the initial stages of biomedical business development, and encourages innovative researchers from universities and companies to consider these funding opportunities.

The first project I’m highlighting is our SBIR grant to Elvira Lang, M.D, an interventional radiologist. Dr. Lang has developed a nonpharmacologic, behavioral intervention (using communication techniques and hypnotic language) as a complementary approach to sedation for patients undergoing medical procedures and tests. Almost three-quarters of a million American patients per year do not complete their MRI scans because of issues like claustrophobia or an inability to stay still. Dr. Lang has designed a prototype, developed onsite and online training vehicles in her method for healthcare professionals, and created a patient app. Future plans include testing the intervention further at MRI facilities at The Ohio State University and Duke University.

Tim Wagner, Ph.D., a medical and electrical engineer, received an NCCIH Fast Track SBIR grant to clinically evaluate a novel method of noninvasive brain stimulation. The technology delivers electrical and sound waves to the brain in an effort to help patients with osteoarthritis of the knee manage their pain. His company is collaborating on a clinical trial with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s Laboratory of Neuromodulation, in Boston. If successful, the approach might overcome some limitations present in similar brain-stimulation technologies and expand in clinical use to other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

To find out more:

  • Visit the Center’s webpage about SBIR/STTR programs to read about topics that NCCIH is interested in funding.
  • See the variety of projects we’ve already funded by using the NIH RePORTER database. Select “NCCIH” in the “Agency/Institute/Center” field, then “SBIR/STTR” in the “Activity Code” field; then hit “Submit Query.”
  • Review active SBIR/STTR funding announcements.
  • Contact Julia Berzhanskaya, Ph.D., program analyst, if you are considering applying or have questions.


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