HabitAware receives Phase II National Science Foundation Grant for Novel Mental Health Technology

HabitAware receives Phase II National Science Foundation Grant for Novel Mental Health Technology

Minneapolis, MN, Fall 2020

We are so excited to announce that HabitAware was awarded a two-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II Grant in the amount of $1 million. The approved research and development (R&D) project promises to develop a novel sensor integrated into a wearable bracelet, a remote monitoring system, and new behavior detection algorithms that have the potential to improve HabitAware’s real-time awareness solution for those who suffer from Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs).

This engineering grant follows our initial work performed via a Phase I National Science Foundation grant and is the third SBIR research grant awarded to HabitAware (the first being through the National Institute of Mental Health).

The National Science Foundation has deemed this research worthy of support due to the broader impact and commercial potential to help people with BFRBs. “NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, Division Director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.” 

And the need for the BFRB community is tremendous as over 4% of Americans suffer from BFRBs, which include skin picking (dermatillomania), hair pulling (trichotillomania), and nail biting (onychophagia). Due to lack of education and resources, many in the community resort to covering up the physical damage from these mental health conditions with makeup, gloves, wigs, and tattoos. Cost and lack of access to treatment are barriers to lasting behavior change. While behavior therapy, and in particular Habit Reversal Training, has shown efficacy, this method is traditionally burdened by unreliable journaling and difficulty for patients to track in real-time due to a lack of awareness. 

HabitAware's Phase II project will focus on improving gesture detection accuracy for its real-time awareness device. Through the study, HabitAware will also develop a new remote monitoring wearable system integrating the novel sensor developed in Phase I. This wearable sensor solution is the first of its kind, using the novel sensor to extract meaningful biomechanical information. This system can profoundly impact the efficacy of Habit Reversal Training during Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the leading treatment method for Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors.

HabitAware CoFounder & Principal Investigator, Dr. John Pritchard shares, “The research has the potential to greatly improve the accuracy of our current state-of-the-art consumer offering and provide new solutions to the underserved BFRB community, among other applications. This Phase II project is instrumental in expanding HabitAware's technology and will ultimately provide a better, more sophisticated solution to our customers. Our team is thrilled to continue cutting-edge research that benefits the BFRB and broader research communities.” 

About HabitAware: HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet to help manage trichotillomania (hair pulling), dermatillomania (skin picking), onychophagia (nail biting) and other compulsive behaviors. Keen allows users to retrain their brain by vibrating whenever it detects a specific trained behavior. The vibration interrupts the behavior, brings the user into awareness and allows them to make healthier choices. To learn more visit: www.habitaware.com. HabitAware is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 2026173.

About the National Science Foundation's Small Business Programs: America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF awards $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. Startups working across almost all areas of science and technology can receive up to $1.5 million in non-dilutive funds to support research and development (R&D), helping de-risk technology for commercial success. America’s Seed Fund is congressionally mandated through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The NSF is an independent federal agency with a budget of about $8.1 billion that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. To learn more about America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, visit: https://seedfund.nsf.gov/

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