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Mask Innovation Challenge Offering $500,000 in Prizes

  • Federal challenge open to innovators interested in “building tomorrow’s mask”
  • Goal is to create a mask with better comfort, utility, and measurable protective capabilities
  • Challenge has a deadline of April 21

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

If you’ve been experimenting with ways to make your face mask more comfortable during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government wants to hear from you.

The Department of Health and Human Services – Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is overseeing the Mask Innovation Challenge, which aims to improve the comfort, utility, and protective capabilities of masks. BARDA is partnering with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control, for the challenge.

The challenge states that while masks have been encouraged as a way to prevent the spread of infectious respiratory disease, they also create problems for the user ranging from eyeglass fogging to contact dermatitis from prolonged wear. BARDA says many currently available masks also “tout unconfirmed protective capabilities that lack scientific evidence to support such claims,” and that there is a need to develop masks that are “more acceptable to wearers and that ensure quantified measures of performance.”

Up to 10 winners will receive $10,000 each in the first phase of the challenge, with a prize purse of $400,000 to be divided among five winners in the second phase. Winners may also be eligible for mentorship opportunities.

The deadline to submit an application in the Mask Innovation Challenge is 5 p.m. on April 21. Full details are available at the link.

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