Sage Digital Health Catalyst Program

Sage Digital Health Catalyst Program helps to bootstrap innovative research projects.

There is a high barrier to entry for researchers hoping to deploy mobile-health technologies effectively and at scale. Through the Sage Digital Health Catalyst Program, we are helping to bootstrap innovative research projects. After several rounds of judging and a pitch session, we are pleased to announce the winners of the competition. Congratulations!

Creativ Lab logo


The UW CREATIV Lab will be working with Sage Bionetworks to build out a mobile recruitment and assessment app for depression. The app, called Brighten, is based on previous NIMH-funded research the lab conducted to evaluate mobile treatments for depression. Brighten will include features such as cognitive assessment, daily questions about mood and functioning, weekly assessments and will extra passive, phone-based data as well as allow participants to share data from electronic health records. This app will be used in a large scale study if 12,000 adults undergoing treatment for depression, to see if you smart-phone can predict the chances of people responding to different types of depression interventions. Learn more


LetSync: Advances in antiretroviral therapy mean that people who are HIV-positive can live healthy lives as long as they engage in HIV care and treatment. However, biomedical advances have not benefitted all populations equally, resulting in drastic disparities by racial/ethnic and sexual minority statuses. LetSync is a mobile health app that targets dyadic resources to enhance the health of the individual, based on social-psychological and behavioral evidence indicating that the quality and dynamics of the relationship between the patient and his/her primary partner (e.g., spouse) have profound effects on the patient’s healthcare engagement. LetSync targets dyadic interactions that bolster dyadic resources to help black gay couples living with HIV better engage in care. Few mHealth designs target the joint, dyadic experience of two users in facilitating interactions between them. This research is innovative for extending beyond the standard individual-based mHealth design to consider the interdependence between users that affect behavior. Findings from this research may be applicable to other types of dyads, such as the patient-provider, parent-child, and the caregiver-care-receiver dyads. Learn more

About Sage Digital Health Catalyst Program



The often costly nature of leveraging emerging technologies creates a high barrier to entry for researchers wanting to effectively deploy digital health technologies at scale. The Digital Health (DH) Catalyst Program aims to address this by providing pro bono consulting and in-kind infrastructure to support innovative ideas for biomedical research studies that leverage digital health technologies to answer a pressing scientific question. Winner(s) of the DH Catalyst Program will receive support from Sage throughout the research lifecycle and will have their research highlighted through Sage’s Qualified Research Program, joining a growing list of digital health resources (mPower, Mole Mapper, Asthma Health).



Smartphones and other wearable sensors have put touchscreens and high fidelity sensors into the pockets of billions of people. These technologies provide an opportunity to paint a rich understanding of health and disease in the natural world outside of the clinic. They also provide communication tools that allow participants a more active voice in research programs. The promise of these emerging technologies has been accompanied by challenges as well; challenges requiring infrastructure and roles not typically found in traditional biomedical research organizations.


The Digital Health Research Study Lifecycle:

At Sage Bionetworks, we work to advance health research through practices that support the design, development and implementation of digital health studies, and the analysis and sharing of the resulting study data. Sage is a recognized leader in the digital health space and has spent the past 4 years identifying the components needed to successfully run an digital health research program. This includes additional roles (e.g. design expertise) as well as infrastructure to support research studies in digital health. We have worked with technology companies – including partnering with Apple to launch the first ResearchKit studies; with pharmaceutical companies – including partnering with Novartis to study Multiple Sclerosis; and with academic partners – including partnering with the NIH to integrate digital health technologies into the All of Us Research Program.



Who should apply?

Any researcher who has an innovative idea of how digital health technologies (smartphones, wearables, sensors) can help advance a research question in their specific domain.

How do I apply?

Fill out the Google Form (the contest is now closed). For the initial application, you need only to supply your contact information, answer three short questions, and provide a 1-2 page overview of your proposed research study. Finalists will be selected to give formal pitches to Sage’s Digital Health Catalyst judging panel.

What is the application deadline?

Here are the key dates for the Digital Health Catalyst Program.

  • June 4: Open for applications!
  • July 31: 1st round of applications due
  • August 17: Finalists selected!
  • September 13-14: Finalists’ “virtual pitch” to Sage’s Digital Health Catalyst judging panel
  • October 1: Winners announced!

What does a successful application look like?

Successful applications will have unique and innovative uses of digital health technologies in order to assist in answering a specific scientific question. Applicants will have to demonstrate their ability to support application development as well as obtain ethical oversight and review (e.g. access to an IRB).

How will submissions be scored?

Each application will be scored on a 50 point scale and assessed on the following criteria:

  • 20 points – scientific merit
  • 10 points – innovation (type of sensor used, data collected, engagement strategy, etc.)
  • 10 points – value returned to the participant
  • 10 points – executional feasibility

What will winning teams receive?

Winning applications will receive the Sage digital health study bootstrap (outlined below). NOTE: this will not include app development resources.

Sage digital health study bootstrap:

Does making data available through the Qualified Researcher Program mean I won’t be able to publish my study’s results?

No! In fact, quite the opposite. The Qualified Researcher Program has been developed and designed to enable broad sharing of data in a responsible manner, usually alongside an initial publication. We will work with winning applicants to determine a reasonable embargo period after which the study data will be made available.

Why is Sage doing this?

We recognize that there is a high barrier to entry for researchers wanting to effectively deploy mobile health technologies at scale. Additionally, we are committed to a research ecosystem that is more open and transparent – both via technology development as well as through incentives to promote sharing of data and analyses. As such, Sage is looking to help bootstrap research groups who are willing and excited to work with those same values and principles.