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The Secretary’s Ventures Program announces projects for 2016

The Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Mary Wakefield today announced the selection of five entrepreneurial projects for investment by the Secretary’s Ventures program (HHS Ventures). The projects were chosen from across HHS and are part of the latest round of funding and support designed to advance the Department’s innovation agenda. This is the largest amount of funding and projects selected into HHS Ventures.

“The teams selected today bring new approaches to improvement opportunities across the department’s family of agencies,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Wakefield. “Continuing to foster innovation both outside and within HHS helps us meet challenges head on and deliver on our mission to serve the American people.”

HHS Ventures is a highly competitive effort that provides growth-stage funding and support to HHS employees with proven ideas for how to dramatically improve their office, agency, or the Department’s ability to carry out its mission.

This year the Ventures program is supported for contributor specific projects from the Office of the Secretary and the Directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the NIH National Cancer Institute; the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Acting Administrator of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). These agency partners also provide leadership support, mentorship and potential applications for the projects.

“This third round of Ventures funding widens the lens to include more applications and more stakeholders than ever before,” said HHS Chief Technology Officer Susannah Fox.  “I salute all of the innovative teams pursuing creative solutions and building our strength across the Department.”

The projects selected by HHS Ventures represent critical areas of opportunity in improving the efficiency of the Department and include:

Automated autism classification for public health surveillance

From CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities: 15-year, population-based autism surveillance is labor-intensive and costly. To classify autism in children, trained clinicians review dramatically increasing numbers of written medical and educational evaluations. The team’s machine learning approach, in its pilot phase, could instantly classify evaluations, reduce clinician workload, and save time and money.

Global bidding and assignment system 2.0

The current system to recruit, keep, and deploy a specialized global workforce is not flexible enough to meet the expanding global mandates of the Department and keep Americans safe from global health threats. The Global Bidding and Assignment System (GBAS), a specialized system for global recruitment, bidding, training, and assignments, has shown early promise during its pilot, in filling overseas global public health vacancies while providing a unifying workforce strategy across the Department.  The project is a joint effort of team members from the HHS Office of Global Affairs, CDC, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration, FDA, and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration.

NARMS collect: A public health surveillance mobile app

From the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine: The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) team will design a mobile app with the goal to decrease manual entry of data associated with samples collected in the field. This app will simplify an 8-16 hour per month process and improve the accuracy of time sensitive food safety monitoring data that are used for regulatory decision making. Stakeholders are interested in the app’s ability to conduct real time surveillance while saving the government time and dollars.

Optimizing HR operations: The federal HR wiki

A team representing the Office of Human Resources at the NIH and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration has created a pilot of a Wiki (a website that allows for collaborative editing) tool to help manage Federal Human Resources Knowledge. The goal would be to pilot this with the Office of Human Resources at NIH with the possibility of future expansion across the Department.

Automation of onboarding process for special government employees

NIH has about 1,200 Federal advisory committee members who provide second-level peer review of grant applications and critical advice/recommendations to NIH. Appointing these Special Government Employees is currently done manually, including the completion of 13 required forms. Automation would allow data sharing, interconnectivity with existing systems, and electronic interface with the customer. This pilot could be scalable to other HHS divisions and the federal government. This is a joint project of team members from the NIH Office of Federal Advisory Committee Policy, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Cancer Institute, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, and Center for Scientific Review.

For more information on HHS Ventures, visit