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Eight medical device makers, including a California startup that uses virtual reality to treat chronic pain, topped an innovation contest aimed at addressing the opioid crisis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Friday.

As part of the FDA’s ongoing commitment to address the opioid crisis, the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) launched an Innovation Challenge in May 2018. The challenge was intended to spur the development of medical devices, including digital health technologies and diagnostic tests, that could provide new solutions to detecting, treating and preventing addiction, addressing diversion and treating pain.

The goal was to provide additional incentives for medical device developers to invest in products that can address the addiction crisis and advance the development of innovative, safe and effective technologies. We received more than 250 applications from medical device developers.

Silicon Valley-based startup CognifiSense, which is developing the virtual reality therapy, and iPill Dispenser, which uses a biometrically controlled mobile app that aims to cut overconsumption by dispensing pills based on prescriptions, were among the winners of the FDA’s contest.

The company is developing VR Neuropsychological Therapy or VRNT, a proprietary VR software platform that provides psychological and experiential training to chronic pain patients to normalize their pain perception.

VR distraction therapy utilizes the immersive power of VR to create high cognitive load. It consists of entertaining games or experiences which focus the user on another task and away from the pain. Distraction therapy has been shown to be effective in providing short-term relief in acute pain. Immersive video games that shift the user’s focus from the pain are known as “distraction therapy”.

VRNT differs from distraction therapy in that it specifically targets the brain’s “neuroplasticity”, or ability to change over time.

Overall eight submissions were selected. The following selected proposals include therapeutic and diagnostic medical devices intended to treat opioid use disorder, detect and treat overdose, dispense medication and treat pain:

– Brainsway, Ltd (Brainsway Deep Transcrainal Magnetic Stimulation (DTMS) Device)
– Avanos (Pain therapy Device)
– iPill Dispenser (iPill Dispenser)
– Masimo Corporation (Overdose Detection Device)
– ThermoTek, Inc. (NanoThermTM and VascuTherm TM Systems)
– Milliman (Opioid Prediction Service)
– Algomet Rx, Inc. (Rapid Drug Screen)
CognifiSense, Inc. (Virtual Reality Neuropsychological Therapy)

The FDA received over 250 applications for the innovation challenge, which seeks to prioritize the approval of novel medical devices including digital health technologies such as mobile medical apps.