HEAL Initiative: Announcement of the NCATS ASPIRE Design Challenges to Develop Innovative and Catalytic Approaches Towards Solving the Opioid Crisis

Notice Number: NOT-TR-18-031

Key Dates
Release Date: December 10, 2018
The Challenge begins: December 31, 2018 
Submission period: December 31, 2018 – May 31, 2019
Judging Period: June 17, 2019 – August 2, 2019
Winners Announced: August 2019
 

Related Announcements
None

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Purpose

The goal of the inaugural NCATS ASPIRE (A Specialized Platform for Innovative Research Exploration) Design Challenges is to develop innovative and catalytic approaches towards solving the opioid crisis through development of (1) novel chemistries; (2) data-mining and analysis tools and technologies; and (3) biological assays that will revolutionize discovery, development and pre-clinical testing of next generation, safer and non-addictive analgesics to treat pain, as well as new treatments for opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdose. The first phase of this prizing competition is implemented through a suite of concurrent companion design challenges that comprises a separate challenge for each of four areas: chemistry database, electronic laboratory knowledge portal for synthetic chemistry, algorithms, and biological assays; and an additional challenge for a combined solution for at least two challenge areas. At this stage, innovators are expected to submit designs, not final products or prototypes.

The NCATS ASPIRE Challenges are part of the of the NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative to speed scientific solutions to the national opioid public health crisis. The NIH HEAL Initiative will bolster research across NIH to (1) improve treatment for opioid misuse and addiction and (2) enhance pain management. More information about the HEAL Initiative is available at:  https://www.nih.gov/research-training/medical-research-initiatives/heal-initiative.

The total prize purse for each challenge will be $500,000.  For Challenges 1-4, the single component solutions, up to 5 winners will be selected for each solution to receive up to a $100,000 cash prize; for Challenge 5, the multi-component solutions, up to two winners will be selected to receive up to $250,000.

Payment of the Prize. Prizes awarded under this competition will be paid by electronic funds transfer and may be subject to Federal income taxes. HHS/NIH will comply with the Internal Revenue Service withholding and reporting requirements, where applicable.
Matching requirement. A for-profit private entity solver (innovator) receiving a prize under this challenge must match funds or provide documented in-kind contributions at a rate of not less than 50% of the total-Federally awarded amount, as stipulated by Public Law 115-141, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. Such winner(s) will be required to demonstrate that matching funds and/or in-kind contributions were committed to achieve the winning solution.  Such winner(s) must identify the source and amount of funds used to meet the matching requirement or describe how the value for in-kind contributions was determined.

For full details about eligibility requirements, competition rules, detailed judging criteria, and deadlines for submissions, please consult https://ncats.nih.gov/aspire/challenges.

Description

NCATS ASPIRE aims to develop and integrate automated synthetic chemistry, biological screening and artificial intelligence approaches in order to significantly advance our understanding of the relationship between chemical and biological space and enable further access into biologically-relevant chemical space. The platform will utilize currently available knowledge to develop innovative algorithms and predict and synthesize novel structures capable of interacting with specific targets; enable small-scale synthesis of the predicted molecules; and incorporate in-line, rapid biological testing of the molecules. Any new data obtained through this process would then be fed back into the system to further improve design, synthesis and biological characteristics of molecules.

While the ultimate goal of the NCATS ASPIRE program is development of a platform that a wide spectrum of scientists can use to advance their translational science relevant to development and pre-clinical testing of new and safer treatments of pain, opioid use disorder (OUD), and overdose, it is essential that the approaches described and proposed here are applicable to any translational problem.

NCATS envisions following these Design Challenges with a follow-on, but distinct, final reduction-to-practice challenge, which will aim to invoke further scientific and technological development of the model system.

The NCATS will select up to 5 winners for Challenges 1-4, and up to two winners for Challenge 5, to receive cash prizes. Winners of the 2019 Design Challenges will be invited to present their designs so that, in the envisioned follow-up Reduction-to-Practice Challenge, an open competition, teams will be able to form multi-disciplinary collaborations to advance and integrate the most feasible and promising approaches to the multiple challenges into a single integrative platform. Innovators will be invited to demonstrate final solutions.

Concurrent Companion NCATS ASPIRE Individual Design Challenges

NCATS ASPIRE CHALLENGE 1: Integrated Chemistry Database for Translational Innovation in Pain, Opioid Abuse Disorder and Overdose

Challenge 1 [https://ncats.nih.gov/aspire/challenges /challenge1] is an open source, controlled access database that incorporates all currently available chemical, biological and clinical data of known opioid and non-opioid based analgesics, drugs of abuse, and drugs used to treat drug abuse.

NCATS ASPIRE CHALLENGE 2: Electronic Synthetic Chemistry Platform for Translational Innovation in Pain, Opioid Abuse Disorder and Overdose

Challenge 2 [https://ncats.nih.gov/aspire/challenges /challenge2] is to develop next-generation open source electronic lab notebook (eLN) that collects, organizes and analyzes data relevant to the chemical synthesis and analyses of known opioid and non-opioid-based analgesics, drugs of abuse and molecules used to treat drug abuse into an electronic laboratory knowledge portal for synthetic chemistry (electronic synthetic chemistry portal; eSCP).

NCATS ASPIRE CHALLENGE 3: Predictive Algorithms for Translational Innovation in Pain, Opioid Abuse Disorder and Overdose

Challenge 3 [https://ncats.nih.gov/aspire/challenges/challenge3] is development of open source, advanced machine learning algorithms that would facilitate the discovery of novel, efficacious and non-addictive analgesics and/or treatments for drug abuse by utilizing the data collected in open source databases (Challenge area 1), eSCPs (Challenge area 2), and biological assays (Challenge area 4).

NCATS ASPIRE CHALLENGE 4: Biological Assays for Translational Innovation in Pain, Opioid Abuse Disorder and Overdose

Challenge 4 [https://ncats.nih.gov/aspire/challenges/challenge4] is development of novel, physiologically relevant biological assays that accurately replicate the safety profile and effectiveness of existing drugs to treat addiction and/or overdose; can be reliably used in predictive risk assessments of new analgesics or drugs to treat addiction and/or overdose; and/or be able to anticipate the degree of addictiveness of an analgesic prior to clinical testing.

NCATS ASPIRE CHALLENGE 5: Integrated Solution for Translational Innovation in Pain, Opioid Abuse Disorder and Overdose

Challenge 5 [https://ncats.nih.gov/aspire/challenges/challenge5] is to converge solutions for at least two component Challenge areas (Challenges 1-4; Integrated Database, Electronic Synthetic Chemistry Portal, Predictive Algorithm and Biological Assay, respectively) from the very beginning into an Integrated Solution. As with the individual NCATS ASPIRE Challenges, an Integrated Solution is expected to incorporate each of the requirements and desired features as detailed in the individual challenge areas. Each component of Challenge 5 is also available as an individual challenge at www.challenge.gov.

Overall Judging Criteria and Relative Weighting*

Challenge 1: Integrated Chemistry Database for Translational Innovation in Pain, Opioid Abuse Disorder and Overdose

  • Impact and innovation (20 points)
  • Data complexity, accuracy, inter-connectivity (20 points)
  • Data accessibility (10 points)

Challenge 2: Electronic Synthetic Chemistry Portal for Translational Innovation in Pain, Opioid Abuse Disorder and Overdose

  • Impact and innovation (20 points)
  • Data collection, analysis and integration (20 points)
  • Accessibility and user-friendliness (10 points)

Challenge 3: Predictive Algorithms for Translational Innovation in Pain, Opioid Abuse Disorder and Overdose

  • Impact and innovation (20 points)
  • Algorithm design functionality and implementation (20 points)  
  • Record of innovation (10 points)

Challenge 4: Biological Assays for Translational Innovation in Pain, Opioid Abuse Disorder and Overdose

  • Impact and innovation (20 points)
  • Model system and assay design (20 points)
  • Assay robustness, reproducibility and scalability (10 points)

Challenge 5: Integrated Solution for Translational Innovation in Pain, Opioid Abuse Disorder and Overdose

  • Overall impact and innovation (30 points)
  • Design of individual components (up to 200 points total- up to 50 points for each of the four components as specified above)
  • Integration, adaptability, user-friendliness and accessibility (20 points)

*Details for each judging criterion for each challenge are available at individual challenge detail pages and at www.challenge.gov.

Submitting a Response

Innovators should clearly state how and why the proposed solution would provide significant advances over currently available tools. Innovators may choose to compete in one or more challenges to address a single area (Challenges 1-4), or two or more areas simultaneously and provide a multi-component solution (Challenge 5).

To register and submit a response to the NCATS ASPIRE Challenges, innovators may access the registration and submission platform through www.challenge.gov and search for individual challenges or through the NCATS ASPIRE CHALLENGE PAGE. Note that all participating individuals, that is, all team members, must register for a challenge in order to participate.

 

Inquiries

Please direct all inquiries to:

Danilo Tagle, Ph.D.
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)
Telephone: 301-594-8064
Email: danilo.tagle@nih.gov

Dobrila Rudnicki, Ph.D.
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)
Telephone: 301-594-7609
Email: dobrila.rudnicki@nih.gov