The Nurture NJ Strategic Plan, an initiative launched in 2019 and led by first lady Tammy Murphy that aims to make the state the safest place in the country to deliver a baby, always has said a whole-of-government approach was needed to combat the issue — especially when it comes to ending racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.
Some new-age technology and innovation could help, too.
Last Friday, the board of the Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology announced it is going to help do just that, as it awarded a combined $1.275 million in grants to 17 startups to accelerate the development of technologies, products and services that support maternal and child well-being.
The grants were awarded through CSIT’s Maternal and Infant Health Research & Development Seed Grant Program, which launched last June as a way to advance the innovation economy through the development of critically necessary research, products and services designed to support maternal and infant health.
The Maternal and Infant R&D Seed Grant Program started as a $750,000 program. But, given the high volume of quality applications and interest from the startup community, the CSIT board announced additional funding that nearly doubled the amount available for awards, to $1.275 million.
As part of the agreement signed last year between the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and CSIT, the EDA dedicated $250,000 from the Economic Recovery Fund toward this program. CSIT provided the remainder of the funding from its Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023 budgets.
Murphy said she was thrilled by the additional funding — and that she is confident the innovation necessary to reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity and ensure equitable care among women and children of all races and ethnicities in the state can come from companies already in the state.
“New Jersey is home to some of the most innovative startups across a myriad of industries, and it is my honor to be here today to recognize some of the top startups in maternal and infant health,” she said.
“As we celebrate our sixth annual Maternal Health Awareness Day here in New Jersey, I reflect on the significant work we have accomplished and what has yet to come. In the next three years, a top priority is to build a thriving Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center in Trenton that will continue this groundbreaking work long past the Murphy administration.
“I am certain that today’s grant recipients will be essential partners to the Center and to Nurture NJ.”
State officials said the awardees represent a diverse group of entrepreneurs focused on supporting maternal health in New Jersey. Nearly 40% of awardees are self-reported minority-owned startups and 33% are self-reported women-owned businesses.
The following startups within New Jersey’s life sciences, technology and non-retail food and beverage sectors were each awarded grants of up to $75,000:
- Analytical Diagnostic Solutions (Mount Laurel);
- ANMP LLC (Westfield);
- Curio Digital Therapeutics (Princeton);
- Enalare Therapeutics (Princeton);
- INTEGURX Therapeutics LLC (Whitehouse Station);
- Lactiga Inc. (North Brunswick);
- Medifvu LLC (Mendham);
- Melinated Moms LLC (Trenton);
- Neo GeneStar LLC (Somerset);
- Neoneur LLC (Pennington);
- Nutrivide Inc. (New Brunswick);
- Portable Diagnostics System Inc. (Robbinsville);
- Ricovr Health Inc. (Princeton);
- Stateam LLC (Somerset);
- Vital Start Health Inc. (Princeton);
- Vitruviae (Nutley);
- Within Health Technologies LLC (Hopewell).
CSIT Executive Director Judith Sheft said the group is proud to support the work of Murphy and others around the state.
“Helping these startups to advance their products and services from ideas through commercialization will have a lasting impact on the quality of care for New Jersey’s mothers and infants,” she said.
“The awardees are working on a variety of drug, diagnostic, hardware and software solutions to address and improve maternal and infant health.”
In August 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation reestablishing the former New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology as the Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology. Comprised of representatives from the public and private sectors, as well as academia, the commission is tasked with leading the way in promoting the state as a home for academic and technological research, development and commercialization.
Tim Sulivan, the CEO of the EDA, said the EDA’s investment in the program represents the authority’s commitment to maternal and infant health innovation.
The awardees exemplify the type of innovative work that will be housed at the Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center currently being developed in Trenton, he said.
“Under Gov. (Phil) Murphy’s and first lady Murphy’s leadership, CSIT and the NJEDA are finding innovative ways to help make New Jersey the safest place to give birth and focusing on ending racial disparities in maternal and infant health,” he said.
“These grant awards serve the dual purpose of prioritizing investment into programs, research and services that improve the lives of women and children, while also working to drive down the racial inequities that exist in access to care. In addition, we are furthering opportunities for young, innovative companies in the Garden State.”