Self-funded team wins the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition

XPRIZE Tricoder winner

The winner of the $10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition has been announced — it is Final Frontier Medical Devices, which won the $2.6 million top prize. Led by a suburban Philadelphia emergency room doctor Basil Harris, the self-funded, seven-member team consisting of four siblings managed to best 312 entrants from 38 countries, many with corporate and government backing.

The competition, launched in 2012, challenged applicants to produce a lightweight, affordable health kit that diagnoses and interprets 13 health conditions and continuously monitors five health vitals. Like a few other devices submitted to the contest, Final Frontier’s kit comes equipped with noninvasive sensors that collect information which is then synthesized on an iPad or some other smartphone or tablet. As such, this tricorder has the potential to revolutionize home health care thanks to its ability to share real-time information with medical professionals — a feat very important to millions of patients in medically underserved communities.

Harris and his team built the 65 required kits for testing with three 3D printers in his home office, each plastic part taking as long as 24 hours to fabricate and with his three children, ages 11 to 15, often overseeing sanding and wiring.

In contrast, the second prize, worth $1 million, was awarded to Dynamical Biomarkers Group, which launched with a group of 50 physicians, scientists and programmers, many of them paid for their work. That team was led by Harvard Medical School professor C.K. Peng, a physicist with a 29-page résumé, and was backed by the Taiwanese cell phone giant HTC and the Taiwanese government.

Next step for the X Prize is to further test a few of the submitted devices. To that end, the Qualcomm Foundation has committed $3.8 million toward continued consumer testing and development for the two top teams and four semifinalists. The organization will also provide both groups with support in FDA testing, in securing production and marketing, and in creating a documentary and museum exhibit about the tricorder’s potential.