Texas A&M: Student-Created Startup Awarded $2.3 Million From National Institutes Of Health

Olera, Inc., a Texas A&M University student-created startup, recently received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute on Aging (NIA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award totaling $2.3 million over three years. The award will support the development and assessment of an innovative digital platform that provides personalized support and resources for caregivers of people living with dementia.

Olera will partner with the Texas A&M University Center for Population Health and Aging, which will serve as the primary subcontractor on the award and will support efforts on the academic validation of the caregiving platform being developed. This collaboration will enable the center to examine novel technological strategies for providing caregivers with tailored resources.

“In recognition of the increase in numbers of persons living with dementia over the next few decades and growing demand for easily accessible and customized information for financial and legal planning especially, Olera’s broad objective is to develop a personalized caregiver support service, in the form of an accessible mobile phone application and website, for family caregivers to improve access to such resources,” said Logan DuBose, Olera, Inc.’s chief operating officer and investigator on the project.

DuBose is a current medical student at the Texas A&M College of Medicine and a graduate of the master of business administration program at the Texas A&M Mays Business School.

The study will support the team’s efforts in a two-phase approach. In phase 1, the team will develop the platform based on a novel dementia care personalization algorithm and will conduct an initial feasibility assessment. Phase 2 will focus on evaluating the acceptance of the Olera digital platform and test the generalizability across three different minority/ethnic populations in Texas.

The Center for Population Health and Aging efforts are led by principal investigator Marcia G. Ory, regents and distinguished professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, and primary affiliate faculty for the center. Ory has served as a mentor to DuBose in his student role and has gained an appreciation of taking an innovative idea to scale.

Following up on an earlier National Science Foundation award examining perceptions of caregivers interacting in the senior care industry, the Center for Population Health and Aging will add substantive expertise about caregiving and dementia. Texas A&M investigators will provide support in both SBIR phase 1 and phase 2 through major tasks including research guidance and support, aiding on caregiver recruitment, advising on digital platform customization for diverse audiences, and report writing, publication and dissemination.

Ory welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with Olera, Inc. to examine what caregivers of people living with dementia need and want in order to provide quality care for their loved ones.

“With so much information out there, it is often overwhelming for family caregivers, especially when dealing with financial or legal issues,” Ory said. “Having a personalized app can help caregivers address their specific questions and concerns, hopefully reducing stress for caregivers and fostering better communication with their family members.”

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