The verdict is in! BiAffect takes home the grand prize

It was no easy task, but the judges have made their final call. It’s with great pleasure that we share our winner: BiAffect, a ResearchKit study designed to unobtrusively understand mood and cognition in bipolar disorder. BiAffect will receive the $200,000 grand prize to further develop their study and launch it in the App Store.

Charting new territory in bipolar disorder research
“In essence, the vision of BiAffect is a pioneering platform that will serve as a “fitness tracker” of the brain. The Mood Challenge has helped us realize this vision, with the ultimate goal of addressing the needs of a population that is often tech-savvy but currently poorly served by existing mHealth tools,” said BiAffect team lead Dr. Alex Leow, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Bioengineering at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

For the 5.7 million adults who live with bipolar disorder in the U.S., navigating life can pose many challenges. Today, diagnosis and treatment relies on careful examination by a physician, aided by self-report or caretaker-informed questionnaires. Using these methods to predict an imminent change in mood is rarely straightforward. This puts individuals at risk of unexpected changes in mood that may interfere with their daily activities.

BiAffect tracks how keystroke dynamics like typing speed, frequency of texting, and social media use are altered during depressive and manic episodes, to uncover new insights about mood change markers. The study’s anticipated findings hold much potential for transforming bipolar diagnosis and treatment.

How the Challenge unfolded
The Challenge is a New Venture Fund program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It launched in April 2016 with a $500,000 prize purse, calling upon researchers and technologists to submit proposals for ResearchKit studies that will further our understanding of mood and how it relates to daily life.

BiAffect and four other teams were recommended by a panel of judges to participate as semi-finalists in the Virtual Accelerator. Each team received $20,000 and expert mentorship as they iterated their designs and attended a 2-day in-person Boot Camp. BiAffect and Aware Study advanced as finalists to the Finalist Testing and Incubation phase of the Challenge. They each received an additional $100,000 to develop their ResearchKit designs into prototypes and pilot with users. At the end of this phase, they submitted a final report of preliminary learnings from user testing, data analysis, and plans for full development to compete for the $200,000 grand prize.  

“This program will help advance mood research in the U.S.,” said Paul Tarini, RWJF Senior Program Officer. “The participating studies are showing how platforms like ResearchKit offer the potential for new breakthroughs in mental health research, and we’re excited to see BiAffect’s novel work in bipolar disorder research.”

What’s next?
With their additional prize money, BiAffect will finalize their ResearchKit study to prepare for App Store launch. Our sincerest congratulations to BiAffect—it has been an honor to be a part of your journey. To learn more and follow the study, visit