Sourcing Health Innovation for Astronauts … and Beyond!

Did you know that many innovations can be traced back to space travel? Memory foam, LED lights, baby formula, and CAT scans are just a few examples. Cool, huh? And now, a new way of sourcing innovation may also have its roots in space, thanks to The Collaborative Health Innovation Platform (known as CHIP). CHIP is a machine learning platform that is currently assisting the NASA-funded Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) source innovation for astronaut health – matching healthcare companies with startups and technologies to address gaps identified by NASA, that are keeping astronauts from visiting Mars. The technology behind CHIP is also expected to have major implications for earth – particularly the healthcare industry. Already, CHIP has brought people together to create astronaut health solutions that are significant to the developing world (where healthcare isn’t as accessible) and for pediatric medicine (where non-invasive technologies are in-demand). Soon, other health organizations around the world may be using CHIP to source for their own innovation projects, bringing the right startups and technologies together to advance the state of healthcare as we know it.

AI’s Astrochimp is Born in Austin, Texas

Every year thousands of health innovators descend on Austin, Texas for SXSW, one of the largest conferences for innovation across many creative fields. And for as long as he can remember, Brian Lang, principal at Energizing Healthcare, has been organizing events around the conference. Energizing Health specializes in health innovation initiatives – “We create ecosystems where healthcare brands work with startups so both can accelerate how they take care of patients,” said Brian. At SXSW 2017, he met Dorit Donoviel, the current director of TRISH. Dorit had a mission (and millions of dollars of funding from NASA), but she needed to source the necessary resources to make it happen. Soon, Brian was introducing Dorit to people who could help. She began organizing all of her new-found connections into a spreadsheet, which became an interactive dashboard designed by Energizing Health. “Eventually we asked ourselves, ‘why don’t we take this database project we’ve been talking about and turn it into a collaborative platform for health innovation?’ ” said Brian.

And with that, the idea for CHIP was born – a machine learning platform that could be trained to source innovation for TRISH and other organizations.

Fun fact: the name is a tribute to HAM the AstroChimp.

Innovation Sourcing Backed by Science

From the beginning, it was important for Brian and his team to “put some science behind the sourcing.”

“We don’t want to just create a database,” explained Brian. “We want to train an AI to teach us which startups have indicators of success, and which ones don’t.”

So, for the past three years, Rice University (the university behind the annual SEED Accelerator Rankings Project (SARP), which measures the effect startups have on the economy) has been conducting field tests at Energizing Health events. From there, the team developed a few hypotheses around what makes a successful startup.

Energizing Health began testing Rice’s hypotheses at one of their November events, and the results were spot on. “We crushed it,” exclaimed Brian. “We’ve definitely learned some things.”

At that time, the countdown to CHIP’s official launch at SXSW 2018 was already well underway. To help promote it, Energizing Health decided to use a .health domain.

“We liked the descriptive nature of the .health domain,” explained Brian. “It’s just solid brand identity — and an elegant innovation solution.”

CHIP 2.0…3.0…and Beyond

According to Brian, half a dozen large brands came forward after CHIP’s launch at SXSW 2018 — brands who want to be involved in future iterations and help build CHIP to scale. Brian explains:

“We want to build a community of collaborators that use technology to solve each other’s problems. It’s that spirit of collaboration and bringing in different partners with different pain points and different needs that will grow the algorithm, make it smarter, and help it meet more of the community’s needs.”

CHIP’s Current Mission: Mars

CHIP is now actively helping TRISH source innovation with a 10-year mission, and with $240 million in funding, to help astronauts survive a trip to Mars. According to this report from Wired, the journey to Mars would take between seven and nine months – and that’s just a one-way flight. During that time, the astronauts would need:

  • Protection from the sun’s radiation – which is far more deadly near Mars
  • Non-invasive medical solutions – there is no surgeon on board
  • Miniaturized tech – the box that contains everything an astronaut would need to maintain their health in space is roughly the size of an outdoor A/C unit
  • Imaging solutions and medicines to help astronauts monitor and withstand the effects of microgravity, which causes a host of medical problems
  • And more.

Many of these early solutions are expected to have implications for those who don’t have easy access to clinics, and pediatric hospitals (where non-invasive solutions are especially important). And Energizing Health is expected to continue the momentum, partnering with a group of pediatric hospitals for CHIP’s second iteration.

Want to Collaborate?

CHIP is currently a research project, but it is expected to become an investable technology in 16 months, according to Brian. If you are interested in investing or helping CHIP grow, the team at Energizing Health is looking for collaborators. Visit to get on their distribution list or inquire about becoming part of the community that will be solving problems together through CHIP.


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