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Prize winning: A better way to fund research?

November 23. 2017 8:54PM

Congratulations to Kantum Diagnostics The Concord biotech firm last week won first place in the 2017 TechOut competition, along with a $200,000 prize.

Kantum is developing a combination of diagnostics and therapeutic approaches to both prevent and treat acute kidney injury (AKI), which kills 300,000 Americans each year. Kantum’s research could allow doctors to detect kidney failure 24 hours before symptoms appear, which would allow for less expensive and more effective treatment.

Though the TechOut competition is open to all types of businesses, another biotech firm also won second place. Datanomix won $100,000 for its work on “fog” computing to better extract valuable information from machine-generated data.

The TechOut competition shows the promise of prize-based funding. Research prizes can spark a flurry of progress toward important goals, leveraging many independent efforts aimed at capturing the prize.

This model is unlikely to supplant government research programs, particularly for basic research. But it is providing a more efficient and effective avenue for private business and philanthropic organizations to spur innovation.

Some prizes set a specific finish line, and reward whoever crosses it first. Others, like TechOut, seek the most promising breakthroughs across several fields. It’s gratifying to see New Hampshire companies on the cutting edge.

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