The Clinical and Translational Research Institute at UC San Diego was named Tuesday as the official testing site for a $10 million global competition to develop a consumer-friendly, mobile device that can diagnose and interpret 15 physiological conditions and capture vital health metrics.

The idea behind the Qualcomm Tricorder Xprize is to make a device inspired by the tricorder from the “Star Trek” television series.

“Of course, the tricorder in Star Trek was originally fantasy, a wonderful bit of science fiction,” said Dr. Gary Firestein, CTRI’s director and dean/associate vice chancellor of translational medicine at UCSD.

“But the idea — and this Xprize competition — symbolizes a very real vision of how we can shape a healthier future with creative use of cutting-edge discoveries,” Firestein said. “It’s emblematic of our focus on ‘disruptive innovation’ to improve human health. We are looking forward to working with Xprize in the quest to seek out new technologies.”

CTRI will serve as the physical location of the test program, with doctors, technicians and staff providing logistical and personnel management. The institute will recruit up to 480 volunteers to serve as consumer-testers, gaining their consent and instructing them in the use of the devices, overseeing device testing and conducting follow-up surveys.

According to UCSD, 10 teams were selected as finalists for the tricorder Xprize, which is sponsored by the Qualcomm Foundation. The teams come from the U.S., Canada, India, Taiwan, Slovenia and the United Kingdom, representing both academic and private enterprises.

Beginning in early summer and for several months, the competing teams will have their entries evaluated at UCSD on specific measures of health assessment and consumer experience.

Organizers of the testing said the devices must accurately diagnose conditions like diabetes, atrial fibrillation, stroke, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia and hepatitis A. They must also capture real-time health metrics, such as blood pressure, respiratory rate and temperature.

“A tricorder could empower patients to capture reliable diagnostic data that will help them self-evaluate symptoms they are having and better prepare them for discussing their symptoms with their health care team,” said Dr. Gene “Rusty” Kallenberg, vice chairman of the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health in the UCSD School of Medicine.

Results will be announced next year — the 50th anniversary of the first season of the original “Star Trek” series. First prize is $7 million, with $2 million for second place and $1 million for third.

Testing will occur at CTRI’s Center for Clinical Research on the UCSD, as well as at UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, and at primary care clinics and some specialty clinics in the UC San Diego Health System.

—City News Service

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