Prize Competition: Challenges in Single Cell Analysis

Notice Number: NOT-RM-14-014

Key Dates
Release Date: August 19, 2014

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Office of Strategic Coordination (Common Fund)
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)


The NIH Common Fund Single Cell Analysis Program is seeking novel robust methods for analysis of individual cells that can detect and assess changes in cell behavior and function over time either as a result of natural state changes or when perturbed (e.g., by a drug, biological stimulus, infectious agent, pathological lesion, or mechanical forces). It is hoped that such methods will yield creative and new, yet feasible, solutions for following a single cell over time in a complex multicellular environment to detect changing cell properties, preferably using multiple integrated measures.

Solutions submitted to this Challenge should:

  • include measurements or assays that are non-destructive and capable of producing temporal data at the individual cell level starting with eukaryotic cells in a complex/mixed cell population;
  • address at least one impactful, biological or clinical question proposed by the Solver;
  • demonstrate robust reproducibility;
  • address gaps or deficiencies in current capabilities that may include, but are not limited to:
    • Tools that provide significant advances in sensitivity and selectivity in the spatiotemporal resolution of molecules/structures/activities within single cells in situ (e.g., high resolution imaging of molecular interactions within single cells, molecular probes that are at least an order of magnitude smaller in size than existing versions of reporter molecules such as fluorescent proteins);
    • Automated and scalable assays to detect meaningful functional changes in single cells in complex tissue environments that improve upon processing time and reduce overall cost; or
    • New combinations of tools and approaches to maximize data generation over several parameters (e.g., proteins, lipids, metabolites, signal secretion/reception/transduction, migratory changes)
  • substantially advance what is currently considered the state-of-the-art.

Solutions describing existing, well-established and/or currently supported approaches, especially commonly used strategies are not of interest unless a compelling case is made that significant, quantifiable advances are proposed and/or the methods and measures are used in unique combinations that have not been previously tested together for the analysis of individual cells in complex environments.

We welcome solutions from individuals, teams and entities from all U.S. sources, including the public sector, private sector, non-profit groups, and those not traditionally supported by NIH. Specific eligibility requirements state Federal grantees and Federal contractors may not use federal funds to develop Challenge submissions.

This $500,000 Challenge is structured in two linked phases: Phase 1 is Theoretical and Phase 2 is a Reduction to Practice of the Phase 1 Solution. Eligibility to participate in Phase 2 of the Challenge is conditioned upon participation in Phase 1 of the Challenge and being selected as a “Phase 1 Finalist.” Phase 1 Finalists are any and all Phase 1 prize winners and any individual, team and/or entity whose solution received a meritorious rating based on the judging criteria.

For complete information and registration:  Federal Register Notice and Registration link.


Please direct all inquiries to:

Yong Yao, Ph.D.
NIH Common Fund
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Telephone: 301-443-6102