DOD to offers prize for diagnostic algorithm

The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency/U.S. STRATCOM Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction recently announced that it is planning to hold an open competition to develop an algorithm that can be used to identify dangerous pathogens.

"The DTRA Algorithm Challenge" offers a one million dollar prize to the first team or individual that can use its algorithm to most accurately and quickly characterize a complex clinical sample based entirely on its raw DNA sequence data, according to

The U.S. Department of Defense hopes the challenge will lead to the creation of technology that can use DNA sequencing as a diagnostic tool to identify infectious diseases. The department said that the work will eventually allow the U.S. military to diagnose a larger number of threats, whether they are known or unknown, than it ever has.

"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," Dr. Alan Rudolph, DTRA's director of chemical/biological technologies, said, reports. "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."

Details about the prize and the contest's sequencing data sets are scheduled to be made available in January 2013, according to

"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," DTRA's Dr. Christian Whitchurch said, reports. "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."

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