This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate launched the Opioid Detection Challenge, in collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The $1.55 million global prize competition, designed and produced by Luminary Labs through a contract with the NASA Tournament Lab, calls upon innovators to submit novel plans for rapid, nonintrusive detection tools that will help find illicit opioids in international mail.
The abuse of opioids such as fentanyl has created an unprecedented public health crisis across the United States. In 2017, approximately 50,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. International mail — through both USPS and express consignment — has been identified as a route for illicit opioids entering the United States, commonly transported in nearly pure, powdered form. Consequently, large-scale drug trafficking can occur via very small packages sent in the mail.
The challenge calls on innovators in a wide range of fields, from forensic science to industrial quality assurance to artificial intelligence, to help disrupt the flow of opioids into the United States. In Stage 1, the Opioid Detection Challenge seeks well-developed plans. In Stage 2, the challenge will support finalists as they develop functional prototypes and prepare for government testing. The challenge will award up to $1.55 million in cash prizes.