ATLANTA — The National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, awarded a $2.9 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Fast Track Phase II Grant to MapHabit, a health technology company that helps memory-impaired individuals and caregivers improve independent function.
The three-year, non-dilutive grant will provide funds for the research and development of a Caregiving Training Program (CTP), which will foster personalized education to family caregivers for optimal person-centered care strategies and train them on equally important self-care techniques, MapHabit said.
Co-founded in 2018 by Matt Golden and Stuart Zola, MapHabit is a member company in the Advanced Technology Development Center’s (ATDC) Signature portfolio of startups. Its interactive, habit-building, education and cognitive engagement platform uses an integrated, visual mapping system to improve the quality of life for individuals who need additional cognitive support.
Including this award, MapHabit has received $6.5 million in non-dilutive grants and raised an additional $2 million in external investor capital since its founding. The company said this most recent award will extend its cash runway into 2025.
The MapHabit technology provides users critical tools to better accomplish their daily life activities, while simultaneously providing oversight and peace of mind to the entire support circle, including care managers and providers.
Caregiving is commonly acknowledged as one of the most stressful, under-recognized, under-paid, and under-supported jobs. The new CTP will offer key innovative features to enhance the caregivers’ own quality of life and directly support them in their role, which in turn will result in reduced cost burdens to them in all types of home and community-based care settings, the company said.
“There are 53 million caregivers in the United States and most of us have been thrown into this role without pay, without education, and without a coach to help guide them on what could be next,” Golden, the company’s CEO, said. “Many of these are overextended sandwich caregivers, which are those who care for younger children and support their aging parents.”
While many resources exist for professional care staff, family caregivers have been left out of the discussion, Golden said. “This SBIR focuses on empowering those caregivers with tools to improve quality of life and independence for both the individual and the caregiver. That is very important to us.”
Some of the features of the new CTP include self-paced learning that starts with understanding the caregiver’s knowledge and skill level; interactive live coaching sessions; easy to use caregiver-centric dashboards to share information, and social networking capabilities to promote social support and community building. The technology also uses a gamification approach to enhance training engagement and a social network system to help caregivers better manage their stress.
“Self-care is crucial for the person supporting someone with a neurocognitive disease. They often do not care for themselves and become sick themselves, putting both parties at risk,” Golden said. “Many non-spouse caregivers work jobs and they typically need to reduce hours or leave the workforce entirely. Moreover, family caregivers take the burden on themselves and don’t ask for help, and this leads to burnout.”
SBIR and a sister effort, Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), are highly competitive programs that encourage U.S. small businesses to engage in federal research and research and development with the potential for commercialization.
As part of its curriculum, ATDC’s SBIR/STTR Catalyst Connie Casteel helps its portfolio companies understand and secure federal funding through those programs. In 2021, ATDC startups received $17.4 million in SBIR/STTR grants. Year-to-date in 2022, ATDC companies have recorded $14 million in awards.
“The ATDC SBIR/STTR program has been critical to help us identify funding opportunities and provide us much needed scientific reviews ahead of complicated government submissions,” Golden said. “The help of Connie Casteel and (ATDC Senior Startup and Deep Tech Catalyst) Nakia Melecio over the three-year period has helped us polish our submissions and ensure proper messaging to the target government organization.”