The National Institutes of Health has awarded contracts to seven organizations working on digital health solutions for COVID-19 involving smartphones and wearable “biosensors” – so who are these companies?
On September 15, the National Institutes of Health announced that they had awarded contracts to seven companies developing digital health solutions for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of the NIH, selected the seven projects put forth by the organizations. The contracts are worth up to $22.8 million and will focus on using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other methods, combined with smartphone apps, wearable devices, and software “that can identify and trace contacts of infected individuals, keep track of verified COVID-19 test results, and monitor the health status of infected and potentially infected individuals.” These organizations include:
iCrypto, Inc. (Santa Clara, California)
Shee Atiká Enterprises, LLC (Sitka, Alaska)
University of California, San Francisco
physIQ, Inc. (Chicago)
Vibrent Health (Fairfax, Virginia)
IBM (Armonk, New York)
Evidation Health, Inc. (San Mateo, California)
The NIH also noted that another company, CareEvolution, LLC (Ann Arbor, Michigan), was awarded a contract by the NIBIB.
NIBIB Director Bruce J. Tromberg, Ph.D., stated that digital health technologies built around smartphones and wearable devices will help guide the public through the COVID-19 pandemic by gathering and analyzing large amounts of data from many different sources.
“When this information is analyzed using cutting-edge computational and machine learning methods, everyone will have access to powerful new tools for reducing the risk of infection and returning to normal activities,” Tromberg said.
The news of the NIH contracts provoked few media reports about the latest development in the fight against COVID-19. However, there was no scrutiny of the companies themselves. This piece is a brief examination of the connections between the companies pushing smartphone apps and wearable technologies, and the individuals and institutions who stand to benefit from the advancement of this biosecurity focused, technocratic reality. A study of these organizations reveals connections to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Apple, and Google.
Let’s start with the organization of which we know the least about – iCrypto, Inc. The NIH awarded digital firm iCrypto, Inc. a contract for “developing a smartphone-based platform to provide proof of testing, serologic, and vaccination status.” Beyond that single line there are not many details available regarding the “smartphone-based platform” iCrypto is commissioned to build.
The company’s LinkedIn page says iCrypto provides “a scalable, customizable, SaaS solution with capabilities including amongst others Mobile-Centric ID Aggregation, strong Mobile-Centric (biometric) Authentication across the organization, Verifications, Authorizations, and Attestations (immutable audit trails), thus assisting with all-around accountability, governance & audit compliance, non-repudiation, increased productivity and profitability.”
ICrypto’s website describes itself as a “Trust and Digital ID / Attestation platform that enables businesses to transact faster (minimize friction) with increased trust, accountability and profitability.” Beyond this brief description and a mention of 3 employees, the website is barren and offers little details on the companies history.
Similarly, the twitter account for iCrypto has only 2 tweets from 2018. A list of press releases from the company make no mention of the NIH contract, but one press release from 2019 states that iCrypto has an “extensive offering that encompasses multiple authentication factors such as fingerprint scans, photographs, facial recognition, user behaviour, and PINs, iCrypto is the most comprehensive solution of its kind in the market today.”
Further investigations are needed to come to arrive at a fuller understanding of iCrypto’s “smartphone based platform” and how it will interact with the population.
CareEvolution received a contract for their tool SAFER-COVID, which they describe as “a digital health solution that integrates self-reported symptoms, data from consumer wearable devices, electronic health record and claims data, and COVID-19 test results to indicate whether users are ready to return to work and normal activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
CareEvolution says that the SAFER-COVID self-assessment tool “helps you make decisions about when, if, and how to safely return to regular daily activities such as work and other social interactions.” The tool is designed to use available research from the CDC, NIH, and other organizations to give the user “guidance” on what they can do “to be more confident that you are not infectious to others.”
CareEvolution has yet to provide specifics on what type of wearable devices they are gathering data from, but the use of wearable devices is a central component to the NIH contracts.
Shee Atiká Enterprises, LLC
Shee Atiká Enterprises is tasked with “developing a smartphone-based platform aimed at supporting individuals in low-resource settings with a Bluetooth-enabled thermometer and pulse oximeter.” Shee Atiká is specifically focused on a platform to “monitor and support individuals with COVID-19 symptoms (who may need testing) and those who have already tested positive.”
The company says their app will integrate a Bluetooth-enabled thermometer and pulse oximeter into an approach “uniquely designed for low-resource settings and underserved populations.” How the technology will function and how exactly it is suited for “underserved populations” is not explained.
Once again, there is not much information about the company itself or the nature of the technology being designed by Shee Atiká Enterprises and their parent company Shee Atiká Incorporated.
However, we do know that Shee Atiká Incorporated is also the parent company of INDHA Health Solutions, an Alaskan company that specializes in creating healthcare solutions for clients to improve healthcare management. INDHA says it “turns biometric patient information into usable knowledge for participants, employers and healthcare providers.” This is done by smart devices and wearables which are currently used to detect blood sugar and blood pressure.
According to Alaska Northstar Resources, LLC, another one of Shee Atiká’s subsidiaries, Shee Atiká, Inc., and its subsidiaries, have performed close to $1 billion in U.S. government contracts. With this history of government contracts it should be no surprise that the relatively unknown company has been chosen to create the next wave of digital health tools aimed at tracking those who may have COVID-19.
We should also noted that Shee Atiká and private military contractors TigerSwan were both implicated in a scheme involving disgraced international corporation DynCorp.
University of California, San Francisco
The NIH granted the University of California, San Francisco a contract to investigate a GPS-based “retroactive contact-tracing tool for COVID-19.” Researchers with UC San Francisco have been actively developing contact tracing technology in response to COVID-19. Contact tracing is a process of identifying individuals who may have come into contact with an infected person, collecting information about their contacts, and then tracing the contacts of infected individuals. All persons who may have come into contact with an infected individual are tested for infection, treated for the infection, and their contacts traced as well.
The NIH contract is the latest step in UCSF efforts to create a contact tracing tool that not only tracks an individual’s current and future movements, but looks to “recreate people’s movements.”
In September, UCSF researchers invited the public to share their location data – which is collected by Google – via their smartphones and mobile devices. The data sharing and monitoring is part of a new study called Covidseeker, ostensibly aimed at improving contact tracing efforts and helping scientists understand how the coronavirus is spreading from person to person.
“The UCSF project takes a different approach from the one that Google and Apple are using in their contact tracing apps,” the university wrote. “Those apps use Bluetooth beacons to detect phones that are nearby in real time, sending alerts whenever users come near someone who reported having tested positive. By contrast, Covidseeker looks back in time. With enough participants, it may be able to recreate people’s movements when infection rates were rising and falling in the spring and summer of 2020.”
The grant from the NIH is not unusual given that two organizations have a longstanding relationship. For example, in 2019, for the 13th year in a row, UCSF claimed the top spot among public institutions in funding from the NIH. “The NIH has been behind many of the biggest breakthroughs that UCSF scientists have made over the decades,” UCSF wrote.
On September 30, UC San Francisco students, faculty and staff began participating in a trial of the COVID Notify software. They were invited to activate COVID Notify on their smartphones to be the first Californians to test the tool as part of a limited pilot. California lawmakers are hoping to use the tool to learn how best to reopen their state. The technology powering COVID Notify was developed by Google and Apple. The developers claim the software is anonymized and does not use GPS and never collects, stores, or transmits personal information and location data.
UC San Francisco has also briefly received funds the Gates Foundation for malaria and “global health drugs”.
The digital medicine company Physiq Inc. has received a contract from the NIH to “develop an artificial intelligence (AI)-based index that can provide an early warning that a patient with COVID-19 is in decline and needs medical treatment.”
The NIH is asking Physiq to use their COVID-19 Decompensation Index (CDI) Digital Biomarker, which is described as a personalized AI-based algorithm that will run on Physiq’s existing AccelerateIQ computing platform. The company markets their AccelerateIQ platform as an effective tool for collecting and organizing data from wearable biosensors. Their platform works with a chest-worn disposable sensor patch product called VitalPatch from Vital Connect, Inc.
PhysIQ describes their work as “applying artificial intelligence to wearable sensor data” using the only FDA-cleared “personalized analytics platform” designed to process multiple vital signs from wearable sensors to create a “personalized dynamic baseline” for each individual. Essentially, they aim to map your vital signs while you are healthy and use their analytics platform to detect “subtle deviations” that could be the early warning signs of disease or other changes in health.
In May, PhysIQ partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense, and The Henry M. Jackson Foundation on an initiative to use physIQ’s platform to collect and analyze wearable sensor data to better understand the pathophysiology of COVID-19. This project called for “continuous monitoring” of COVID-19 patients using a wearable biosensor in an attempt to predict disease progression and early signs of infection. The plan is to send the platform to “individuals associated with military hospitals in the U.S., as well as across sites in Southeast Asia.”
The NIH awarded Vibrent Health a $4.23 million contract on the promise of developing “mobile applications, data integrations, and validated machine learning algorithms to identify COVID-19 and differentiate it from influenza, and to perform contact tracing using Wi-Fi technologies.”
Praduman Jain, Founder and CEO of Vibrent Health, noted that his company was working on “Wi-Fi-enabled contact tracing” using smartphones and wearable devices to “assist society with the return to normalcy.” Jain and Vibrent Health believe this method of using wi-fi enabled contract tracing could “identify outbreaks” and “advise actions to protect individuals from COVID-19 exposure.” Vibrent will do so by “expanding” and “enhancing” its Digital Health Solutions Platform. The platform allows researchers to “rapidly deploy standardized measures from survey systems they use for everyday research into their own research programs.”
Vibrent claims their technology will be able to differentiate COVID-19 from the Flu, as well as inform users if they should seek medical attention.
In June, Vibrent announced they had developed a “rapid deployment solution” for a COVID-19 survey. Vibrent Health currently serves as the Participant Technology Systems Center for NIH’s All of Us Research Program. Vibrent responded to the program’s need to gather data by rapidly developing and deploying a COvid-19 Participant Experience (COPE) Survey. The survey asked more than 325,000 participants to share their social distancing experiences, COVID-19 symptoms, COVID-19 testing, mood, stress, loneliness, discrimination, anxiety and other aspects of physical and mental health.
IBM has been contracted to test an “integrated solution to support contact tracing and verifiable health status reporting.” There are currently no further details on the specifics of this project, but IBM has been heavily involved in the effort to use digital technology as a method for combating COVID-19.
IBM recently announced it was partnering with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Energy to use supercomputers to launch the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which is reported to be “an unprecedented amount of computing power—16 systems with more than 330 petaflops, 775,000 CPU cores, 34,000 GPUs, and counting.”
IBM has also been offering artificial intelligence powered technology and an AI assistant to answer citizens’ questions.
Of course, supercomputing and AI are nothing new for one of the world’s oldest computer technology and consulting firm. More than a decade ago, IBM was working on a computer system that stimulates and emulates the brain’s abilities for sensation, perception, and cognition. IBM claimed they had made advances in simulating the behavior of the cerebral cortex and created an algorithm that could “synthesize” neurological data.
In 2017, IBM announced they were partnering with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on a “first-of-a-kind brain-inspired supercomputing system powered by a 64-chip array of the IBM TrueNorth Neurosynaptic System.” The platform was designed to “enable deep neural-network learning and information discovery.” IBM said the systems pattern recognition and sensory processing power is equivalent of 64 million neurons and 16 billion synapses while only consuming 10 watts of power.
The IBM TrueNorth Neurosynaptic System was originally developed under the auspices of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) program in collaboration with Cornell University.
Whitney Webb has reported extensively on DARPA’s dark agenda and how it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evidation Health, Inc.
Evidation Health is tasked with “investigating a health measurement platform to analyze self-reported and wearable device data to both detect COVID-19 and differentiate it from influenza.” Evidation has a history of working with smart devices and other wearable technology.
The U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the Gates Foundation also recently backed Evidation for the purpose of developing a “COVID-19 detection algorithm.” Evidation is to work with 4YouandMe – a nonprofit that helps individuals share their health data for medical research – to collect self-reported and wearable-collected data from 300 participants.
Evidation previously partnered with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Apple on research into whether consumer gadgets like smartwatches and sleep trackers could be used to spot early signs of dementia. The man behind the research, Dr. Andrew Trister, was hired by the Gates Foundation in 2019.
In August 2018, Evidation launched a data platform that could reportedly process data from more than 100 sources ranging from Apple Health to Fitbit, Epic, Blue Button, and Dexcom. Evidation stated that the platform can analyze individual behavior and health in real time.
Evidation also has a history of collaborating with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. government. In May, the Gates Foundation invested in Evidation to develop a “digital biomarker of COVID-19 and understand an individual’s susceptibility to infection and cascading effects of disease.”
The reason I make note of the investments from the Gates Foundations is because of the mammoth influence that Bill Gates and his Foundation have on international health organizations and the policies they propose. In part 2 of my investigation into Gates, I detailed how the Gates Foundation is connected to nearly every U.S. institution involved in the fight against COVID-19, as well as international organizations and governments. From the World Health Organization to universities and private companies, Bill Gates is able to shape the direction of health policy.
Exposing Operation Warp Speed
The NIH contracts are part of a broader effort by the U.S. government to combat COVID-19 and expand the biosecurity state. In addition to the eight companies mentioned here, there are also efforts for immunity passports and contract tracing apps. These include the CommonPass, a project with support from the World Economic Forum; CovidCheck, an app with backing from the CDC and the Clinton Health Initiative; and CommonHealth, another contact tracing app developed with help from UCSF and the Rockefeller Foundation.
These contracts are also one aspect of Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership launched by the Trump administration to rapidly develop and distribute a Covid-19 vaccine. The Trump admin has previously promised to deliver 100 million doses by October 2020, 200 million by December, and 300 million doses by January. As Whitney Webb has recently shown, the Trump administration is awarding contracts to vaccine manufacturers in a way that allows the agreements to remain hidden from the public.
An organizational chart for OWS dated July 30, 2020 includes the names of several organizations involved in the recent NIH contracts. U.S. government officials from the NIH, BARDA, and Health & Human Services are involved in the contracts and OWS. As I have previously written, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the head of OWS, is the epitome of a Big Pharma lobbyist.
Following his education, Slaoui joined the pharmaceutical industry, serving on the board of Directors of GlaxoSmithKline between 2006 through 2015. Slaoui served in several senior research & development (R&D) roles with GlaxoSmithKline during his time with the company, including Chairman of Global Vaccines. GSK has a history of working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on projects such as the development of a malaria vaccine and anti-HIV compounds used as microbicides. In fact, Dr. Slaoui worked for 27 years on the malaria vaccine, ultimately partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a $600 million malaria vaccine. When Slaoui took over at GSK, his predecessor, Tachi Yamada, joined the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
More recently, Slaoui sits on the boards of pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology organizations. He is also partner at MediciX investment firm, chairman of the board at Galvani Bioelectronics, chairman of the board at SutroVax and sits on the boards of Artisan Biosciences, Human Vaccines Project and Moderna Therapeutics. Each of these companies is involved in vaccine development and the emerging field of bioelectronics.
In the next part of the #ExposeWarpSpeed investigation we will explore the role of Moncef Slaoui as Chief Advisor of Operation Warp Speed and his history of involvement in bioelectronics and implantable devices. We will also show how the Gates Foundation is funding “vaccine patches” in the United States and Australia as part of the COVID-19 recovery.