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Alum Wins $3,000 Second Prize in National Competition

Alumna Alaina Hanlon, the president and CEO of the PhenotypeIT company that provides health and wellness software solutions to help individuals and organizations better identify and manage chronic health issues, took home the second-place $3,000 prize at the National Health Promotion Summit, where the Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicators App Challenge was staged. Team Community Commons won the $10,000 first prize. PhenotypeIT guides individuals gradually to change behaviors that are putting their health at risk. The company also addresses the need for a better set of behavior modification tools for clinicians and dieticians to use with patients at risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome. 

PhenotypeIT not only assesses an individual’s risk levels, but also ties improvements in nutrition to improvements in health. The company integrates data from many sources to help individuals in terms of their clinical needs, goals, and readiness to start making changes. Individuals receive a 10-year health-risk profile and a nutrition score based on their clinical needs and eating habits. An action plan is developed to help them improve nutrition scores, which in turn improve health. The company tracks the individuals’ progress, provides real-time feedback, and automatically modifies the action plan as necessary. The clinician can track populations and cohorts to determine which programs provide the greatest benefits.

Dr. Hanlon won an Outstanding Junior Alumni Award from the College of Engineering in 2010. Since completing her doctoral degree here in 2008, she has continued on a steep career trajectory in engineering-related ventures.

PhenotypeIT uses Dr. Hanlon’s experience in developing risk assessment and predictive technologies to provide solutions that help businesses manage and reduce their healthcare costs. The technology co-developed by Dr. Hanlon identifies the causes of individuals’ current and future health problems by using novel risk-predicting methodologies. Incorporated into insurer- and employer-supported wellness programs, such personalized, evidence-based services have the potential to use engineering methods to change the way we as a society deal with the maintenance of health and treatment of chronic disease.

PhenotypeIT is Dr. Hanlon’s second entrepreneurial venture. While pursuing her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering on condition monitoring in spacecraft, she co-founded a civil engineering company that offered distributed monitoring of earthworks such as dams, levees, and tunnels. This company, Condition Engineering, Inc., has been honored with many awards, including winning the 2007 UMass Amherst Innovation Challenge and a grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance. (May 2012)