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NIDA Challenges Program

Revised June 2019

What is a Challenge/Prize?

  • Challenges are an appeal to a diverse array of potential ‘solvers’ to provide a solution for a particular goal.
  • Typically, Challenges are ‘crowdsourced’ to a large group of people, commonly via the internet, to obtain a needed service, idea, concept, product, etc. from sources non-traditional sources.
  • Prizes – monetary and/or non-monetary – often accompany challenges.
  • Challenges/prizes are an alternative funding mechanism to contracts or grants.
  • Challenges are specific, detailed, and actionable. They need to be formulated, posted to a wide-audience, tracked, judged and awarded.

Related Links

Current Challenges

“$100,000 for Start a SUD Startup 2019” Challenge

The judging of the Challenge is now completed. Based upon the Challenge criteria, the judging panel has selected 9 submissions for the Challenge awards:

  1. Applicant: Biomotivate
    Proposal: Biomotivate: A digital motivation platform for motivation to stay sober from substance use disorders
  2. Applicant: District Connect
    Proposal: District Connect: A mobile grocery store 
  3. Applicant: Kaleidoscopes
    Proposal: Virtual reality platform for enhancing self-regulation through biofeedback
  4. Applicant: KTO (Knowledge to Own)
    Proposal: Affordable Housing
  5. Applicant: Neurotype
    Proposal: Assessing drug cue reactivity (DCR) with NeurotypeDCR
  6. Applicant: PillSafe
    Proposal: PillSafe: Addressing SUD among adolescents
  7. Applicant: PrescribeAI
    Proposal: A platform that helps insurance companies to identify high-risk opioid prescribers  
  8. Applicant: RecoverWe
    Proposal:  RecoverWe Platform for mapping of addition recovery resources and a peer navigation service
  9. Applicant: U-Check-IT
    Proposal: U-Check-It™ System: A non-invasive health monitoring system to track stress and opioid usage in real-time

For further details see the Challenge.gov site - "$100,000 for Start a SUD Startup 2019" Challenge"

Past Challenges

Past Challenge: 2018 - $100,000 for Start a SUD Startup

Challenge.gov Link

Award Winners

The judging of the Challenge is now completed. Based upon the Challenge criteria, the judging panel has selected 10 submissions for the Challenge awards:

  1. Applicant:  Premedly
    Proposal: A learning platform to help rehabilitation staff add key soft skill competencies to improve patient outcomes
  2. Applicant:  We are Marcus
    Proposal: An enterprise mentoring platform for schools directed at improving student outcomes on substance abuse and increase engagement in school and youth programs
  3. Applicant: Scite
    Proposal: A Citation Analysis Platform (R-factor: the measure of scientific veracity)
  4. Applicant: SYNVENTA
    Proposal: Removing liabilities with novel FDC
  5. Applicant: GOODLER
    Proposal: Technology to build resilience in distressed communities
  6. Applicant: Sound Life Sciences
    Proposal: Second Chance: opioid overdose detection using smartphones 
  7. Applicant: Data Quality Label
    Proposal: Analytics Platform for risk management in drug discovery
  8. Applicant: Henry Heath
    Proposal: Culturally sensitive teletherapy for SUD
  9. Applicant: FMB Technologies
    Proposal: A miniaturized telemetry device for data collection and transmission
  10. Applicant: Sure Med Compliance
    Proposal: Care Continuity Program (CCP)
Past Challenge: 2017 - $100,000 for Start a SUD Startup

Award Winners:

  • Team 1: PainQx Inc. (Frank Minella, Leslie Prichep, Alejandro Zamorano, William Koppes)
    Challenge Submission Title: PQX Objective Pain Measurement
    1R44 DA045385-01: Development of a Clinical Tool Utilizing an EEG Based Algorithm for the Objective Quantification of Pain
    The 1R44 DA045385-01 application was not discussed during the review meeting.
    The PainQx researchers proposed to develop a quantitative electro-encephalogram (qEEG) measure of pain. Reviewers found that validating the qEEG measure against self-reported pain in a chronic pain cohort is contradictory. It wasn’t clear that this will result in a “better” measure of pain compared to self-report. The proposal was found lacking details on the actual system prototype, pain classification algorithm, a proper control group in Phase I, discussion of factors other than age that might influence pain perception, and clear milestones to show feasibility of pain prediction and to justify progression to Phase II.
    After discussion of the Summary of Statement with OPIPI the application was submitted in December 2017 to RFA-DA-18-012 as 1R44 DA046964-01: Development of a Medical Device Utilizing an EEG-Based Algorithm for the Objective Quantification of Pain. The application is currently pending NIDA review.
  • Team 2: Vlad Verkhusha and Daria Shcherbakova from Albert Einstein College of Medicine
    Challenge Submission Title: Near-infrared biosensors and optogenetics to advance preclinical studies in neurobiology
    This team was not incorporated a small business by the end of 2017 and keeps working with OTIPI to develop MVP and SBIR application
  • Team 3: Florida International University team (Francisco R. Ortega, Armando Barreto, Jules Calella, Alain Galvan, Santiago Bolivar)
    Challenge Submission Title: Bio-Interactive Device for SUD
    This team received the OTIPI mentorship and performed significant work to develop MVP. As the result of due diligences, they determine no path of the product to the market due to the product cost and regulatory hurdles. The team was not incorporated a small business.
  • Team 4: Beacon Health. Co (Shrenik Jain)
    Challenge Submission Title: Applying Natural Language Processing to Increase Provider Efficiency in SUD group therapy setting
    Created team for the SBIR application (Jain Shrenik, Ranney Megan, Kristen Morgan, Francesca Beaudoin, Langdon, Kirsten J, Roche Dan)
    1R43 DA045402-01: Applying Natural Language Processing to Increase Provider Efficiency and Patient Engagement in SUD Group Therapy.
    The 1R43 DA045402-01 application was not discussed during the review meeting.
    Beacon Tech proposed to use a mobile app with underlying NLP for sentiment analysis to improve management of substance abuse disorders. Reviewers found that application presents underdeveloped scientific model of sentiment analysis influencing app enhancement, patient engagement, and clinical outcomes. Despite of listed extensive expertise, there was little description of project management and investigator coordination. The study design as a controlled trial was lacking a description of measurable results. The study portion of the application could benefit from involvement of a statistician familiar with clinical trials and clarifying the role of the involved personal.
    Currently, OTIPI is working with the team to address review comments, straight the team and resubmit application.
  • Team 5: Epidemic Solutions, Inc. (Joseph Insler, Scott Weiner, John Moustoukas, Ajoy Basu, Michael Gilbert)
    Challenge Submission Title: Opioid Recovery Bracelet
    1R43 DA045423-01: Overdose Recovery Bracelet: A wearable device that detects opioid overdose and automatically injects life-saving naloxone without the help of others.
    The 1R43 DA045423-01 application was not discussed during the review meeting.
    Epidemic Solutions Inc. proposed development of a wearable system that can detect episode of opioid overdose and automatically inject antidote. Review found that there are practical and safety issues associated with the proposed system, and the research approach was poorly developed. Although the research team is strong in the clinical side, there is a lack of strong engineering/technical members to ensure the success of this project. Overall, while the medical need is strong, the concerns of practicality and safety and the poorly developed research approach tempered the enthusiasm of the reviewers for this proposal.
  • Team 6: JADE Biotech (John Lowman, Randall Brenn, Elora Hilmas, Dan Charytonowicz)
    Challenge Submission Title: Developing a Solution to Prevent the Diversion, Abuse, and Addiction to Hospital Narcotic Waste
    This team received the OTIPI mentorship and performed significant work to develop MVP. As the result of due diligences, they determine no path of the product to the market due to the product cost and regulatory hurdles. The team was not incorporated a small business.
  • Team 7: University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Bodhi Inc. (Michael Wesley, Josh Lile, Arit Harvanko, David Hempy)
    Challenge Submission Title: BiOfeedback and brain stimulation DEvicE
    The team was incorporated a small business in September 2017 and submitted the proposal as a response to PHS2018-1 NIDA, the topic #164 “Development of Portable Neuromodulatory Devices for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders”. The proposal is currently pending NIDA review.
  • Team 8: Care Analytics, University of Texas Health Science Center (Benson M Irungu, Mon-Ju Wu, Phillip Beckett, Tom Lee)
    Challenge Submission Title: A software tool to predict relapse related readmissions and provide post-discharge care coordination
    During MVP development process the team joined Medical Innovators Company LLC
    1R43 DA045405-01: A software solution to provide seamless care coordination and objective risk stratification to reduce relapse in substance use.
    1R43 DA045405-01 application was discussed during the review study section and received the Priority Score of 68.
    The Medical Innovators Company proposed to develop software as a service (SAAS) technology that will be able to facilitate collection, curation and end-user co-creation of community social resource information. The tool is to identify people at risk for substance use disorder (SUD) relapse. Reviewer found that this project was lacking input from experts in SUD and statisticians. The approach discussed interviews but the participant group and the methods are not clear. There are also no specifics about how the data will be obtained from patients, and no clear methods and description of the predictive algorithm were presented. Reviewers founded also weakness in the supportive cited literature.
    OTIPI discussed the Summary Statement to address comments and propose the way to align budget efforts to actual proposed work.
    Following the significant revision of the application, the team has submitted it to the NSF SBIR program and was selected for funding in December 2017.
  • Team 9: Clare Zhu and Anin Sayana
    Challenge Submission Title: Blockchain-Based Healthcare Data Management
    The team had only junior scientists with minimal expertise for the product development who could not allocate the efforts and resources to complete MVP development. The team received the OTIPI training but decided do not incorporate a small business and do not submit a SBIR application.
  • Team 10: Viralchemy Bioscience (Trevor Gale, Tim Horton, Ben Bradley)
    Challenge Submission Title: Proteomics, Informatics, & Data Mining to Reduce Costs of Drug Development for Substance Use Disorders
    The team had only junior scientists with minimal expertise for the product development who could not allocate the efforts and resources to complete MVP development. The team received the OTIPI training but decided do not incorporate a small business and do not submit a SBIR application.
Past Challenge: 2016 - Addiction Research: There’s an App for That

The goal of this challenge was to create an app to be used by addiction researchers in future studies which will help to improve the scientific understanding of drug use and addiction. The app will: allow researchers to engage “citizen scientists” and to recruit a large and varied number of willing study participants; present informed-consent materials; collect data frequently on a broad range of variables. NIDA encourages addiction researchers to use the newly available technical capabilities of ResearchKit™ and seek collaboration(s) with app developers and engineers to create the winning research app. (Submission Period: November 3, 2015 - April 29, 2016.)  For more information go to nida.ideascale.com.

Award Winners

Based upon the Challenge criteria, the judging panel selected:

  • First place - Greg Gruse, ICF International Inc., Rockville, MD for the submission entitled “Track the Crave” 
    Track the Crave is an app developed to target smokers who are trying to quit and willing to provide detailed information about the circumstances surrounding their cravings. This app has the potential to help users in their quit attempt as well as provide a wealth of data that can inform future efforts to provide tailored and adaptive cessation interventions to smokers. The study aims to determine predictors of smoking relapse following a quit attempt, and identify if there are different patterns of quit trajectories.  Researchers will be able to use this information to better understand the nuances of the quitting process and better assist smokers in permanently quitting.
  • Second place - Joshua Song, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI for the submission entitled “Substance Abuse Research Assistant (SARA)”
    SARA is a flexible app platform that is customizable by researchers to integrate multiple data collection tools including wearable sensors, cognitive tasks, and self-report relevant for substance use research. The SARA study will focus on adolescents and emerging adults to understand initiation and escalation of drug use among youth. The app has an innovative engagement strategy providing data visualization and dynamic feedback to users.  
  • Third place - Nancy Saccone, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO for the submission entitled “Genomics of Addiction (GENA) App”.
    GENA app is a platform for adults who are participating in research programs conducted by genomic company 23andMe. The GENA study aims to integrate the existing 23andMe genetic data with substance use information to identify genetic and biological contributors to addiction. Researchers will drive large-scale human genomic studies of substance use disorders, with the goal of discovering important biological mechanisms and ultimately aiding the development of improved treatment and prevention strategies.

We appreciate all of the time and effort that went into each application, and encourage applicants to consider additional NIDA Challenges.

Past Challenge: 2015 - Harnessing Insights from other Disciplines to Advance Drug Abuse and Addiction Research

After completing a thorough review of the applications received, the judging panel found that none was sufficiently meritorious and responsive to the concept of the challenge. NIDA has therefore decided not to award any prizes. We appreciate all of the time and effort that went into each application. (Submission Period: May 26, 2015 - June 30, 2015)

Past Challenge: 2015 - Innovations in Measuring and Managing Addiction Treatment Quality

After completing a thorough review of the applications received, the judging panel found that none was sufficiently responsive to the concept of the challenge to meet the standard for a First Prize Award.  NIDA is awarding a meritorious/ honorable award of $10,000 to Jeremy Martinez, MD, Matrix Institute on Addictions, Los Angeles, CA for the submission title: “The Patient-Oriented Treatment Information Framework (POTIF)”.  We appreciate all of the time and effort that went into each application, and encourage applicants to consider additional NIDA Challenges. (Submission Period: Jan. 14, 2015 - June 1, 2015)

Challenge Program Staff

Irina Sazonova, Ph.D., M.Sc.
Health Scientist Administrator, Office of Translational Initiatives and Program Innovations (OTIPI)
Challenge Program Administrator
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
6001 Executive Blvd Room 4206, MSC 9555
Bethesda, MD 20892-9555
Phone: (301) 827-5873

Elena Koustova, Ph.D., MBA
Director, Office of Translational Initiatives and Program Innovations (OTIPI)
NIDA Challenge Manager
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
6001 Executive Blvd Room 4286, MSC 9555
Bethesda, MD 20892-9555
Phone: (301) 496-8768

This page was last updated June 2019

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