NCATS Announces Plans to Publish the ASPIRE 2020 Reduction-to-Practice Challenge Prize Competition
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

August 26, 2020

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National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)


The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences intends to publish a Prize Competition Announcement to solicit entries for the NCATS ASPIRE (A Specialized Platform for Innovative Research Exploration) Reduction-to-Practice Challenge: Development of a Comprehensive Integrated Platform.

This Notice is being provided to allow potential entrants sufficient time to form multidisciplinary teams to develop innovative solutions to submit to the competition.

The Announcement is expected to be published in September 2020 with an expected submission window from late November through the end of February 2021.

NCATS intends to award cash prizes during three-stages of the prize competition. Additional information about the planned prize competition is provided below.


The NCATS ASPIRE program is part of the NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) InitiativeSM 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: goal of the NCATS ASPIRE Program 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.

While the ultimate goal of the NCATS ASPIRE Program is the 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 approach developed in this phase is applicable to any translational problem. For more information on the NCATS ASPIRE Program, please also see the following publication in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.

The first phase of this initiative was implemented through a suite of concurrent companion design challenges that comprised 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 integrating at least two out of the four challenge areas. The challenges are described in greater detail on the following website: At this initial stage, innovators were expected to submit designs, not final products or prototypes. The NCATS ASPIRE Design Challenges closed on May 31, 2019. Details about the winning submissions may be found here:

Prize Competition Details

In this Reduction-to-Practice Challenge, the second phase of the initiative, NCATS aims to build upon the designs from the Design Challenges and reward the development of a working prototype of a comprehensive integrated platform, culminating in the development of better, more effective and non-addictive analgesics. It is anticipated that this Challenge would require large, multi-expert teams. These teams may be assembled from the innovators from the 2018 Design Challenge areas and others who did not participate in the 2018 Design Challenges. This Notice alerts the scientific community that NCATS intends to hold a three-stage prize open competition for the NCATS ASPIRE Reduction-to-Practice Challenge, the stages are 1) planning, 2) prototype development and milestones delivery, and 3) prototype delivery and validation and testing. It is anticipated that the announcement will be published in September 2020, with the submission window for Stage 1 planning solutions from late November through the end of February 2021.

Details about the prize competition will be posted at and at

NCATS intends to conduct this challenge under the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010, as amended [15 U.S.C. § 3719].



Please direct all inquiries to:

We strongly encourage interested parties to contact NCATS ASPIRE Program staff listed below to discuss potential submissions. Inquiries may also be sent to: (link sends e-mail). 

Danilo Tagle, Ph.D.
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)
Telephone: 301-594-8064

Dobrila Rudnicki, Ph.D.
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)
Telephone: 301-594-7609

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