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HHS Ventures Program Awards Funding for Automated Autism Classification Pilot Project

March 11, 2016
by Heather Landi
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Five entrepreneurial projects designed to advance innovation across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have been tapped to receive $400,000 in funding from the department’s Ventures program, HHS Acting Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield announced this week.

The five projects were chosen from across HHS and are part of the latest round of funding and support for internal projects designed to advance the department’s innovation agenda. The HHS Ventures program provides growth-stage funding and support to HHS employees with proven ideas for how to dramatically improve their office, agency, or the department’s ability to carry out its mission as well as improve the department’s efficiency.

“The teams selected today bring new approaches to improvement opportunities across the department’s family of agencies,” Acting Deputy Secretary Wakefield said in a statement. “Continuing to foster innovation both outside and within HHS helps us meet challenges head on and deliver on our mission to serve the American people.”

The five Ventures projects for 2016 come from the Office of the Secretary and the Directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the NIH National Cancer Institute; the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Acting Administrator of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

“This third round of Ventures funding widens the lens to include more applications and more stakeholders than ever before,” HHS Chief Technology Officer Susannah Fox said.

A project from the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities was chosen to receive funding. The project aims to develop automated autism classification for public health surveillance. According to the HHS announcement, the CDC’s 15-year, population-based autism surveillance is labor-intensive and costly. “To classify autism in children, trained clinicians review dramatically increasing numbers of written medical and educational evaluations. The team’s machine learning approach, in its pilot phase, could instantly classify evaluations, reduce clinician workload, and save time and money,” the HHS announcement stated.

Other projects tapped to receive a portion of the $400,000 investment include a public health surveillance mobile app from the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine; a federal HR Wiki tool, or a website that allows for collaborative editing, to help manage Federal Human Resources Knowledge and a project to automate the onboarding process for special government employees.




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