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Defense Threat Reduction Agency and U.S. STRATCOM Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction Award $1 Million Prize for New Techniques for Rapid Characterization of Pathogens

WALTHAM, Mass., Dec. 3, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- InnoCentive and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency/U.S. STRATCOM Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (DTRA/SCC-WMD) announced the winner of the $1 million "DTRA Algorithm Challenge." The winners developed an algorithm which can most rapidly and accurately characterize a complex clinical sample based solely on raw DNA sequence data. The Challenge was executed for DTRA by a team from the US Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory.

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The ability to successfully treat U.S. personnel from bio threats around the world is impacted by the speed and accuracy with which those threats can be identified. Previously, it could take up to a week to analyze a sample of DNA, requiring the assistance of third party analysis. The winning solution – submitted by Team Huson (Daniel Huson, Benjamin Buchfink and Xie Chao) - reduces that time to tens of minutes and can be conducted in the field. Once developed, this solution will help to rapidly identify and characterize unknown pathogens (either bacterial, viral or both), allow for informed medical intervention, enable targeted antibiotics and provide better results.

"Making the $1 million award open to all participants, regardless of nationality, encouraged participation from a broader community than we might normally be able to reach for this type of project. Additionally, the prize's tiered structure also guaranteed that we would only present an award after validating the best-in-field solution against a well-defined reference," said Dr. Christian Whitchurch, Devices Branch Manager for DTRA's Diagnostics, Detection and Disease Surveillance Division. "The number of Solvers working on this Challenge exceeded our expectations. Team Huson's algorithm will lead to an enhancement in DTRA's current capability to diagnose and treat bio-threats in a shorter time-frame and support life-saving interventions."

"The fact that three scientists from Germany and Singapore who were not known to the government, could access the InnoCentive platform and provide this breakthrough, once again proves the power of the InnoCentive approach," said Craig Jones, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board for InnoCentive. "This successful challenge-prize experience shows what can happen when government and private industry work together to make our nation safer and more secure."

DTRA has assigned a technical team to refine the winning solution and will publish a technical paper discussing the creation, execution and results of the Challenge.

For more information on the competition visit or

About DTRA
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

About InnoCentive
InnoCentive is the global leader in crowdsourcing innovation problems to the world's smartest people who compete to provide ideas and solutions to important business, social, policy, scientific, and technical challenges. For more than a decade, leading commercial, government, and nonprofit organizations have partnered with InnoCentive to rapidly generate innovative new ideas and solve pressing problems. For more information, visit

Contact Information

Ronald Lovas
Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)
(703) 767-5870

Amanda Fountain
Schwartz MSL on behalf of InnoCentive
(781) 684-0770

SOURCE InnoCentive
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