The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday the winners of its Synthetic Health Data Challenge, awarding a total of $100,000 to six groups developing methods to improve Synthea, an open-source software framework that generates realistic patient data for researchers and policymakers to use in place of real-world clinical data to conduct studies and experiments.

Started by the MITRE Corporation, Synthea uses publicly available health statistics to create in-depth models that cover artificial patients’ lifespans—but free of privacy, security, intellectual property, or other legal restrictions.

“The availability of realistic, synthetic data is a vital part of supporting iterative testing models and early-stage research and product development,” said Steve Posnack, Deputy National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

The HHS challenge, launched in January and conducted in two phases, had participants first develop proposals for either novel uses of Synthea-generated data or ways to enhance Synthea. In the second phase, these participants then developed prototypes based on their proposals.

HHS awarded $40,000 to the winning proposal by Team CodeRx, which proposed a tool to increase Synthea’s medication selection to better reflect real-world medication and the complexity of pharmaceutical therapy.

HHS gave $15,000 each to two second-place winners, The Generalistas, who proposed a virtual generalist to allow Synthea to model co-morbidities in patients, and LMI, who looked to improve disease modules in the program. Three third-place teams won $10,000 each.