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DTRA/SCC-WMD Announces $1 Million Algorithm Challenge

Fort Belvoir, VA (PRWEB) December 13, 2012

Nuclear warheads are not the only weapons of mass destruction threatening the United States and her allies. Because nuclear weapons require sophisticated technologies and elements difficult to obtain, the nation’s adversaries may find chemical and biological weapons easier to procure.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency/U.S. STRATCOM Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (DTRA/SCC-WMD) is working hard to protect American warfighters and our allies from threats posed by chemical and biological weapons by innovating new technologies to detect chem/bio threats.

DTRA/SCC-WMD’s most recent initiative is “The DTRA Algorithm Challenge” – an open competition with a $1 million prize for the individual or team that develops an algorithm which can most rapidly and accurately characterize a complex clinical sample based solely on raw DNA sequence data.

“The Algorithm Challenge will lead to an enhancement of DTRA’s capability to diagnose and treat biothreats to the U.S. Armed Forces by giving DoD the ability to process and analyze biological sequence data rapidly in a realistic, moderate-to-low resource setting,” said Dr. Christian Whitchurch, Devices Branch Manager for DTRA’s Diagnostics, Detection and Disease Surveillance Division. “DTRA believes an open innovation development strategy is most likely to quickly yield a set of disruptive solutions to the threats posed by known, emerging, or engineered pathogens.”

This particular algorithm challenge focuses on using DNA sequence data in identifying pathogens in complex mixtures from clinical samples. By using sequencing as a diagnostic tool for infectious disease, the DoD will eventually have the ability to diagnose a larger number of threats (known and unknown) than ever before.

The Challenge winner will be whichever individual- or team-developed algorithm that best meets the following criteria:

  • Assesses the data, however complete or limited
  • Provides the best possible characterization of the sample
  • Identifies and quantifies all components when possible
  • Speculates (with probability and justification) when positive ID is not possible
  • Makes recommendations for further analysis
  • Does not rely on an expert user
  • Requires little overhead
  • Is fast

“Diagnostics is a critical area of emphasis for DTRA in creating new capabilities and products in detecting chemical and biological threats whether natural or intentional,” said Dr. Alan Rudolph, DTRA’s Director of Chemical/Biological Technologies. “The Algorithm prize is a great example where we are looking for novel solutions from advanced mathematics to unlock complex human diagnostic data to better determine health status that could inform on early and effective treatment options to these threats.”

Prize details and sequencing datasets will be made available in January 2013. For more information about the DTRA Challenge, visit the challenge website at

DTRA is a combat support agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, founded in 1998, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Its mission is to safeguard the United States and her Allies from Weapons of Mass Destruction (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) and High-Yield Explosives by providing capabilities to reduce, eliminate and counter the threat, and mitigate its consequences. Visit us on the Web at

No. DTRA 2012-004

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Source: PRWeb
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