Emergent Ventures awarded Covid Watch $100,000 on Thursday to continue its work on an anonymous exposure alert app that protects privacy while quickly notifying users if they've been in contact with the coronavirus.
The COVID-19 Prizes are given to individuals and organizations that have shown "significant success" crafting solutions during the current global pandemic. Recipients do not apply for the awards.
"These funds will help us encourage adoption of our app, the most private way to alert people they've been exposed to COVID-19," said Tina White, executive director of Covid Watch. "We're excited to be recognized for our work to stop the virus and prevent a once-in-a-lifetime erosion of privacy norms."
Emergent Ventures founder Tyler Cowen set aside $1 million for the COVID-19 Prizes earlier this year. The award comes via the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where Cowen works as a professor of economics.
“When it comes to fighting COVID-19, we don’t know where the critical advancements and breakthroughs are going to come from,” Cowen said. “These prizes are a way to incentivize innovation and help to repay those who work on this issue, as they are unlikely to receive anything close to the full social value of their efforts.”
Covid Watch relies on a network of volunteers in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the world, including epidemiologists, public health experts, developers, lawyers and communications specialists.
In just a few months, that team has built an app that offers anonymous and privacy-protecting alerts with plans to authenticate diagnoses by health officials interested in providing this service within their jurisdictions.