AMHERST, Mass. – The Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech (MeHI) has selected six new healthcare research and development (R&D) hubs to join the Digital Health Sandbox Network including the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), the state program announced this week.
The Sandbox Program connects digital health startups to cutting-edge R&D facilities in the Commonwealth and allows Massachusetts startups to apply for funding to test their innovations at one of the networks’ labs, now including IALS. Sandbox R&D facilities provide a range of services supporting validation and testing for digital health companies throughout their life cycles.
IALS Director Peter Reinhart says, “Establishing a translational institute at UMass that provides startup lab space, more than 30 industry-friendly, staffed core equipment facilities, and individualized venture mentoring services creates an exciting environment for digital health companies in western Massachusetts.”
Andrew Vinard, IALS director of Core Facilities, adds, “Our core facilities will now have access to a wider network of potential users who may not have found us but for the Sandbox program and MeHI’s engagement. This will be a catalyst to bring digital health-focused companies to our doors to access the broad array of resources and expertise we can devote to their projects. Being in the Sandbox network also broadens our core facilities access to expertise, which we hope will translate to inter-institutional projects to take advantage of the wealth of resources Massachusetts has to offer to our digital health industry.”
IALS helps to shepherd and translate fundamental research into new product candidates, technologies and services that benefit human health and well-being. IALS also assists users to address both basic and translational questions, to deliver technologies and product candidates more rapidly and to become more competitive in obtaining funding. Facilities include a state-of-the-art testbed for mobile health experiments at scale, the Center for Human Health and Performance, a roll-to-roll fabrication and processing facility, and research laboratory space for lease.
In 2019, Gov. Charlie Baker announced $500,000 in funding for the Sandbox Program as part of the Commonwealth’s efforts to boost the digital health ecosystem under the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative. Massachusetts approved sandboxes are highlighted on the program web page and are eligible to receive grant funding for projects working with Massachusetts digital health companies.
Many small digital health companies would benefit from the services offered at these sandboxes, but the cost of entry is often prohibitive, MeHI points out. Massachusetts companies can apply to sandboxes in the network for grant funding to test their products and services. The program also provides grants up to $50,000 to subsidize fees for sandbox projects.
In addition to IALS, other new members of the Sandbox Network are MITRE in Bedford; the Medical Device Plug-and-Play Interoperability and Cybersecurity Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School in Worcester. The additions more than double the size of the sandbox network.