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“No-Petri-Dish” Diagnostic Test Challenge

About the Challenge
Describe a novel or innovative method to straintype and characterize pathogenic organisms directly from a complex clinical sample without the need for culture or culture-based amplification.

Posted By: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Category: Scientific/Engineering
Submission Dates: 12 a.m. ET, Sep 01, 2014 - 11:59 p.m. ET, Nov 30, 2014 Judging Dates: Dec 01, 2014 - Dec 10, 2014 Winners Announced: Dec 15, 2014

Laboratory-based infectious disease surveillance programs, such as PulseNet, the National Tuberculosis Surveillance System, and the Active Bacterial Core Surveillance program, rely on primary culture and microbiologic testing in community hospital and clinical laboratories. A new generation of non-culture-based diagnostic tests are now beginning to enter the marketplace offering physicians faster results and, in some cases, more types of information than were previously available. Unfortunately, these new tests do not typically result in isolates being available for public health purposes, and, as their use continues to grow, it will likely become increasingly difficult or impossible to detect and investigate outbreaks or other important infectious disease trends.

New laboratory approaches that do not depend on isolates or culture for subtyping and characterization of microbes are needed to maintain and improve important public health activities across a range of pathogenic organisms.  CDC is challenging inquisitive researchers to develop a new or innovative method to straintype and characterize Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) without using culture-based methods. The innovative straight-to-strain method will be able to isolate STEC from stool (a complex clinical sample) in a way that will make information immediately available for public health use.

A key component of this challenge is the development of novel approaches to identifying and characterizing pathogens similar to normal flora in a complex matrix in a process that does not require any culture, including pre-enrichment. Straintyping and characterization of the Shiga toxin-producing STEC from clinical stool samples represents a significant challenge and has been selected as the target organism for this challenge. STEC are similar in most respects to the commensal E. coli that are carried in the intestinal tract of nearly everyone. Consistent identification, straintyping, and characterization of pathogenic STEC directly from a complex matrix, such as stool, requires the consistent identification of both a variable marker that can be used for subtyping and a second, more stable marker that can be used for definitive identification.


Judging Criteria

Resolution and typeability

Ability to accurately straintype and characterize STEC at high resolution from a stool sample matrix, without the need for culture-based amplification.

Reproducibility and stability

Ability to return consistent, unambiguous results from three or more replicate specimens.

Throughput parameters

Proposed solutions should have a feasible sample-to-answer turnaround time of under 48 hours, and a per-sample reagent and consumables cost of $100 per sample or less. Methods should be scalable to accommodate high-throughput testing.


Data should be objective, based on open or established standards, and amenable for computerized analysis and easily disseminated between laboratories.


While the subject organism for this challenge is STEC, special consideration will be given to proposals that may be readily adapted to a range of other pathogenic microorganisms.

Epidemiologic concordance

Consistency of the resultant data with the known epidemiologic context of the specimen.

How to Enter

In order to take part in this challenge competition, participants must:

1. Register at CHALLENGE.GOV before November 30, 2014.

2. Challenge participants should submit their entry and all supporting materials by 11:59PM EDT on November 30, 2014.  Submitted materials should provide a reasonable, verifiable demonstration of the proposed solution to this challenge, and to address the judging criteria.

3. During the judging period, the expert panel may request additional information or clarification in order to evaluate your entry, or depending on the nature of your entry, provide example data to validate your proposed solution or performance claims.

4. Any technical or administrative questions from participants during the contest period may be directed to CIDTCHALLENGE@CDC.GOV.

5. Contest winner(s) will be notified on December 15, 2014.

2 Discussions for "“No-Petri-Dish” Diagnostic Test Challenge"

  • The "No Petri-Dish" Challenge is intended to be open-ended, to encourage innovative solutions to an important real-world public health problem. As such, we were deliberate in describing the scope and requirements of the challenge, without being overly prescriptive about how it should be approached. The intent is to inspire out-of-the-box and innovative solutions. Your submission to this challenge should include enough documentation or support for an expert technical review panel to accept any of the key claims or performance characteristics that you describe. For the initial submission, a description of the methods, and a set of experimental results should be sufficient. If applicable, other considerations, such as infrastructure requirements, laboratory workflows, reagents, personnel, time/cost considerations etc. should be addressed in your description, at least at a high level. During the judging and review process, the panel may ask for additional documentation or clarification to support your proposed solution. Best of luck with your submission. The "No-Petri-Dish" Challenge Team

  • Jean-Pierre Le Rouzic
    Hi, First thanks for creating this challenge. I have questions about the testing process of the proposed solutions. It is not specified, certainly on purpose, what form factor should have the solution. It might be a written/intellectual solution, for example pointing to what is done in a related domain, or something more physical like "put the sample on the paper sheet, etc..." I understand we must send all needed material but what if it needs some bulky and/or costly hardware like a spectrometer? Is a software solution acceptable? Is a solution running on Java or any other computer language acceptable? Is instructions about how to assemble the hardware from several components acceptable? Who has to test the solution, do the solvers have to go to some specific place to operate their hardware? Or will the solution test be operated by the CDC? Thanks and best regards from France, Jean-Pierre

Add to the Discussion

No solutions have been posted for this challenge yet.

To have a chance to win a prize in this contest you must—

(1) Register for the contest at CHALLENGE.GOV and follow posted contest rules at;

(2) Meet all of the requirements in this section;

(3) Enter the contest as an individual or as a team in which a you or all members of the team are citizen(s) or permanent resident(s) of the United States; or as an entity where entities are limited to those that are incorporated and maintain a primary place of business in the United States; and

(4) Federal employees may not participate in this contest in their official capacity. Federal employees seeking to participate in this contest should talk with their ethics official before submitting a proposal.

(5) Federal grantees cannot use Federal funds to develop COMPETES Act challenge applications unless consistent with the purpose of their grant award.

(6) Federal contractors cannot use Federal funds from a contract to develop COMPETES Act challenge applications or to fund efforts in support of a COMPETES Act challenge submission.

Submit Solution
Submissions for this competition are being accepted on a third-party site. Please visit the external site for instructions on submitting: http://petri
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