BARDA-NIOSH Mask Innovation Challenge Selects 10 Winning Concepts for $10,000 Phase 1 Prizes

Home innovators, researchers, small and large corporations design novel face coverings and devices to protect against respiratory disease pathogens

July 02, 2021

BARDA-NIOSH Mask Innovation Challenge Selects 10 Winning Concepts for $10,000 Phase 1 Prizes Photograph

Ten innovative concepts for next-generation face coverings to protect against respiratory disease pathogens have been named winners in Phase 1 of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mask Innovation Challenge. Winners will receive prizes up to $10,000 each.

The Mask Innovation Challenge aims to improve the comfort, utility, and protective capabilities of products that are worn during day-to-day activities by the general public when physical distancing is not possible. In addition to playing a role to combat COVID-19, masks have been shown to reduce transmission of influenza and other common infectious diseases in households and other non-medical settings.

The Phase 1 winners and the descriptions of their concepts are:

  • 4C Air, Inc.: The BreSafe™ transparent mask design that is intended to provide clearer communication, improved filtration efficacy, and breathability with the ability to control the transparency level and filtration based on mask application.
  • Air Flo Labs, LLC: Informed by 3D scans of real faces, the reusable Flo Mask was designed for kids with a soft silicone gasket to ensure comfort over long periods of use that is designed to be highly breathable.
  • Air99, LLC: The Airgami mask is an N95-grade respirator that uses a patented origami design that creates a comfortable, yet tight self-conforming fit that won’t muffle your voice or fog your glasses.
  • Amazon.com Services, LLC: Designed with the user in mind, the Amazon PerfectFit Mask was developed to protect users from pollutants and aerosols through its innovative “origami” design that may improve breathability and provide a tailored fit to various face sizes.
  • Levi Strauss & Co.: Leveraging familiar tools and everyday skills, the Levi’s Project: Veil mask uses a simple design that is designed to perform similarly to an N95-respirator and can be manufactured by any basic garment factory.
  • The Makery​ Hilo: Even in the most remote locations in the world, such as Hawaii, the Makery Mask can be manufactured with off-the-shelf materials in a way that is designed to be comfortable, protective, and air leak-free.
  • AtmoBlue​, Inc.: Tomorrow’s mask will come with embedded technologies. The AtmoBlue v2 is designed to provide comfortable safety with an integrated, powered air-purifying respirator, but with real-time data to inform users on when to change their filters or adjust fit.
  • RECm: The Rechargeable Electrostatic Capacity Mask (RECm) is an everyday, washable, self-charging fabric mask with electrostatic filtration that may have fit and function comparable to an N95 respirator.
  • Georgetown​ University: Using their innovative, reusable nanoporous metal foams as an active filter media that are as light as a feather, the Georgetown smart mask is designed to provide efficient filtration of particulate matter.
  • PaciMask​, LLC: The PaciMask is a face mask that incorporates a pacifier into a mask so that the child is able to enjoy the soothing effects of a pacifier while simultaneously wearing a mask.

More than 1,400 entries were submitted by design teams hailing from all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico. The 10 prize-winning concepts include face coverings created by a wide range of entrants, including from home innovators, middle school and high school students, academic institutions, and large and small businesses. More information about each of the winners and their concepts may be found on the Mask Innovation Challenge page.

BARDA and NIOSH partnered to launch the Mask Innovation Challenge: Building Tomorrow’s Mask to support the development of innovative masks that help protect Americans from respiratory pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2 and address common complaints people have about masks such as fit, comfort, breathability, fogging glasses, and confidence in effectiveness.

In the second phase of the challenge, contest participants will submit prototypes that leverage research on the filtration efficiency of materials and will be judged on predefined criteria, which may include filtration, fit, comfort, and how easily the design can be manufactured on a large scale. NIOSH and partner labs will test how well the prototypes perform in a variety of settings and conditions. Up to five prototypes will be selected as winners, with a total prize purse of $400,000. Winners also will be provided access to BARDA’s scientific expertise to complete development of the prototype. A Request for Information (RFI) for Phase 2 is forthcoming. For more information and to share your thoughts on Phase 2, visit the BARDA Mask Innovation Challenge: Phase 2 page on Polyplexus.

Details of the challenge, including eligibility criteria and contest rules, are available at the Challenge.gov Mask Innovation Challenge page.

At least 10 studies have confirmed the benefit of universal masking in community-level analyses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Studies cited by the CDC evaluated masks in such settings as a hospital system, urban environments (PDF - 718KB) and across different states. Each analysis demonstrated that, following directives from organizational and political leadership for universal masking, new infections fell significantly.

This competition is designed to support the development of mask designs that meet defined performance standards while also overcoming barriers to use. Overall, there is a need to develop better designs, materials, and technologies that are more acceptable to wearers and that ensure quantified measures of performance.

BARDA’s mission is to develop medical countermeasures (MCMs) that address the public health and medical consequences of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) accidents, incidents and attacks, pandemic influenza, and emerging infectious diseases. BARDA invests in the innovation, advanced research and development, acquisition, and manufacturing of MCMs – vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products needed to combat health security threats. To date, BARDA-supported products have achieved 61 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals, licensures or clearances.

NIOSH is part of the CDC. NIOSH is responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness.

ABOUT THE MASK CHALLENGE

To address these issues and accelerate the development of the next generation of masks, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have partnered to launch the Mask Innovation Challenge: Building Tomorrow’s Mask. NIOSH is part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. The Mask Innovation Challenge aims to improve the comfort, utility, and protective capabilities of products that are worn during day-to-day activities by the general public when physical distancing is not possible. This competition is designed to support the development of mask designs that meet defined performance standards while also overcoming barriers to use.

Last Updated: July 02, 2021

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