As good as WGS may be, FDA and other agencies are seeking even more powerful pathogen detection tools. In October 2014, FDA and CDC announced food safety “challenges” in which they are offering cash prizes to private sector scientists, academics, entrepreneurs, or innovators who submit the best ideas for “applying novel methodologies to foster revolutionary improvements in foodborne pathogen detection.” FDA’s Food Safety Challenge targets “cutting-edge techniques” to significantly speed the detection of Salmonella “with identification to the subtype/serovar level in minimally processed fresh produce.” Of special interest are concepts to accelerate or eliminate sample preparation and/or enrichment in the testing process. The contest “is a means to consider approaches (and possible solutions) through others’ eyes, with technology that we may not have considered applicable,” explains Palmer Orlandi, PhD, senior science adviser at FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine.
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“Some of the greatest innovations are born from ‘outside-the-box’ thinking and this is what we hope to achieve. The prize purse [$500,000] doesn’t hurt as an added incentive, either,” Dr. Orlandi wrote in an FDA blog posting. The submission deadline was Nov. 9, 2014. Up to five finalists will receive $20,000 each and will be eligible to snag the remainder of the $500,000 jackpot when the winner is announced March 5, 2015.
Agres is a freelance writer based in Laurel, Md. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.