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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
Date:12/3/2013

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,
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