Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the launch of the Lead Detect Prize, a $1 million challenge to enhance testing for lead in children. Phase 1 calls upon researchers and innovators to submit concepts and development plans for advanced point-of-care blood lead tests.

Lead poisoning remains a significant public health issue in the United States and around the world, disproportionately impacting children living in communities experiencing disadvantage or poverty. There is no safe level of lead in the blood. Because clinical symptoms of lead exposure may be subtle and undetected by a clinical exam, the best way to determine exposure is to collect and test a blood sample at the point of care. In 2021, CDC issued new guidance for blood lead testing in children, decreasing the blood lead reference value from 5 μg/dL to 3.5 μg/dL. This updated guidance has intensified the urgent need for improved technology to provide more accurate results. 

The Lead Detect Prize invites innovators to harness new methods and emerging technologies, and turn scientific possibilities into tangible advancements for public health. The challenge is open to U.S. and international entrants, subject to eligibility requirements. Phase 1 entrants should submit concept papers that describe their potential solutions for improving blood lead testing at the point of care, including a scientifically rigorous rationale for success, with any applicable supporting data. Submissions are due by 4:59 p.m. EST on January 22, 2024.

A judging panel will recommend up to five winners to receive an equal share of the $150,000 Phase 1 prize pool. Phase 1 winners will be exclusively invited to enter Phase 2, which includes a virtual accelerator; Phase 2 teams will receive access to technical webinars from subject matter experts. Up to three winners to receive a share of the $850,000 Phase 2 prize pool.

Submissions are due by January 22: Get started