Detect to Protect Challenge seeks a live animal test for chronic wasting disease


By Sean Wood


Sensis, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA)–Agricultural Research Service and NASA Tournament Lab, is putting up a total of $170,000 in prize money, with $60,000 going to the team or person that can develop a live animal screening test for chronic wasting disease (CWD). 

CWD is a fatal disease of cervids (deer, elk, reindeer and moose) that causes damaging changes in the brain. Clinical signs of infection can take years to develop. Animals without clinical signs can still spread the disease. 

Currently, there are two approved official postmortem tests for CWD detection. The goal of the Detect to Protect Challenge is to develop a diagnostic test for the early diagnosis of CWD in a live animal, before clinical signs, which only occurs in the late stages of the disease. 

Competitive solutions to this challenge shall consist of novel diagnostic tests that are sensitive and specific for CWD, producing timely and reproducible results from samples easily obtained from live animals. Competitive solutions will also be cost-effective and readily deployable. The ideal solutions to this challenge are diagnostic tests that would be eligible for approval as an official CWD test by the administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), USDA. 

Participants must register and create an account at the Detect to Protect Challenge website at The deadline for the first phase, a concept paper, is April 23. 

Up to seven teams will receive awards of $10,000 each and be invited to participate in Phase 2, early development of their test. First place will receive $60,000, with $30,000 going to the second-place team. Judges will have the option of awarding a $10,000 third-place prize. 

Details about the challenge, including deadline information, is available at