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Qualcomm Foundation Grant to Support Digital Medicine Research Projects

Scripps Health announced today that it has been awarded a $3.75 million grant from the Qualcomm Foundation, to be used for the Scripps Translational Science Institute, which was established by Scripps Health in collaboration with various parties to support the development of breakthrough digital technologies designed to revolutionize the practice of medicine.

The funding will advance clinical trials of cutting-edge wireless biosensor systems, the creation of rapid pharmacogenomic diagnostic tests that can be administered in retail stores, and the development of apps and embedded sensors for tracking and predicting heart attacks, Type 1 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

"The combination of wireless technologies, sensors, diagnostics and DNA sequencing tools offers unparalleled opportunities to dramatically impact health care. The Qualcomm Foundation is proud to support this endeavor – bringing breakthrough technologies to the field of medicine to improve patient care," said Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, Qualcomm Incorporated's Chairman and CEO and Qualcomm Foundation Chair.

The Qualcomm Foundation was established in 2010 by Qualcomm Incorporated to develop and strengthen communities worldwide through the philanthropic support of inspirational and innovative programs that serve diverse populations.

"Scripps Health and our Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) partners are at the forefront of the development of wireless and genomic medicine," said Chris Van Gorder, Scripps president and CEO. "The generous grant from the Qualcomm Foundation reinforces our efforts to translate innovative discoveries into transformative clinical therapies."

STSI is a National Institutes of Health-supported consortium led by Scripps Health in collaboration with The Scripps Research Institute and several other scientific partners.

"The support from the Qualcomm Foundation of our efforts at Scripps positions us to catalyze the future of digital medicine – a new form of health care that is remarkably precise, tailored to individual patients and designed to engage them in their own care," said Scripps Chief Academic Officer and STSI Director Eric Topol, M.D.

The three-year program is designed to move promising discoveries and devices more quickly to hospitals and clinics where they can be used to more rapidly diagnose and treat patients. Scripps officials said the funding represented an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate the burgeoning wireless health sector through collaborations with other research centers and technology developers on a global scale.

One of the first projects to benefit from the grant will be a long-range clinical research study of a mobile health-care software platform created by AirStrip Technologies, Inc. of San Antonio. The study, led by Dr. Topol, will determine how mobile monitoring of patients by physicians may improve clinical workflow and patient recovery rates, among other considerations.

"The interest of Dr. Topol and his team in studying the efficacy of AirStrip's mobile critical care solutions is in itself acknowledgement of the significance of medical information mobility as the mobile health revolution marches forward," said AirStrip Chief Executive Officer Alan Portela.

This new digital medicine effort, Scripps Digital Medicine, spearheaded by Scripps with funding from the Qualcomm Foundation, mirrors San Diego's role as a global center for wireless health care, with 3,050 communications and information technology companies, including Qualcomm, and 625 life sciences and biotechnology companies in the region, according to the CONNECT Innovation Report First Quarter 2012. Combined with nationally recognized hospital systems including Scripps Health and internationally renowned basic science research institutes such as STSI, San Diego's wireless health community continues to grow.

The grant builds upon an existing relationship between Scripps Health/STSI and Qualcomm Incorporated that has already supported the training of physician-scientists, or Qualcomm Wireless Health Scholars, through the Qualcomm Wireless Health Scholars Master's Degree Program.

STSI will use the Qualcomm Foundation grant to focus on three high-priority programs:

  • Clinical trial validation of biosensor systems: Tiny sensors floating in the blood stream can serve as round-the-clock scouts for signs of health problems, such as heart disease, Type 1 diabetes and cancer. Clear evidence of the benefit and value of these technologies is critical for regulatory clearance, reimbursement approval and adoption by health-care providers.
  • Development of mobile apps for embedded sensors: These devices look for particular gene expressions, gene mutations, proteins or antibodies that provide the molecular signatures of medical conditions. Once trouble is detected, the sensor can send the data wirelessly to an app on a patient's smartphone, triggering a message to seek treatment.

STSI is collaborating with Dr. Axel Scherer and his team at the California Institute of Technology Nanofabrication Group to build the embedded nanosensors.

  • Handheld genotyping for precisely prescribing medications: In collaboration with DNA Electronics and Dr. Chris Toumazou at the Imperial College London, STSI is testing a point-of-care chip genotyping platform that can determine within 20 minutes a patient's DNA compatibility with certain drugs such as Plavix, Metformin and Interferon. The project could help lead to a radical change in the way prescriptions are filled at pharmacies and help to eliminate the costly use of ineffective drugs.

Scripps Digital Medicine joins Scripps Genomic Medicine as Scripps programs that are focused on the two pivotal fields that are transforming medicine.

Don Jones, vice president of global strategy and market development at Qualcomm Life, the health and life science subsidiary of Qualcomm Technologies Inc., will help support the newly created Scripps Digital Medicine in an unpaid position as chief digital officer.

"Qualcomm sees the value in combining digital wireless technologies, global networks, genetics and consumer electronics at scale to lower the cost of health care while increasing quality, access and convenience," Jones said. "Never before has the convergence of technology and medicine brought forth so many possibilities to improve people's lives on a global scale, with the San Diego wireless health community leading the effort."

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