U.S. Army medical officials want the defense industry to create wearable monitors to detect whether service members are displaying symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
Army Medical Research and Development Command recently invited defense firms to submit proposals for a $25 million effort to design prototypes of a wearable diagnostic capability for "pre-/very early symptomatic detection of COVID-19 infection," according to a recent request for project proposals issued through the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC).
"There is a dire and urgent need for development of rapid, accurate wearable diagnostics to identify and isolate pre-symptomatic COVID-19 cases and ... prevent the spread of the virus," the solicitation states.
The Pentagon has launched a wide range of restrictions and policies to limit the spread of the virus -- ranging from force-wide restrictions to halting large-scale training exercises -- but the pandemic has still infected 5,316 uniformed service members, according to a May 11 Defense Department COVID-19 slide briefing.
Interested firms have until May 13 to submit white papers describing their plan to create a working prototype and perform testing to demonstrate its ability to detect signs of current infection from "asymptomatic or symptomatic patients," the solicitation states.
"Physiologic surveillance for COVID-19 positive individuals that do not yet show clear medical symptoms is an ultimate goal," according to the solicitation, which adds that results should be easily saved, shared and interpreted by non-laboratory personnel.
Prototypes should be designed to be worn for continuous physiological monitoring without interfering in daily activities, the solicitation adds.
Offerors should also provide a plan for Emergency Use Authorization status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The program has about $25 million in fiscal 2020 funds to put toward the effort; it is expected that it will make up to 10 awards to qualified teams over a nine-month period, according to the solicitation.
The Army is also in the process of equipping installations in its training base, as well as across the operational force, with high-tech testing equipment designed to analyze and complete COVID-19 testing on hundreds of soldiers per day.