Challenge Prize Competition

What is a Challenge Competition?

A Challenge is any contest or prize competition conducted pursuant to the America COMPETES Act in which a prize(s) is offered to a winning participant(s) depending on his or her ability to meet the established criteria for award.

Why is the NHLBI using the Challenge competition mechanism?

The goal of the Challenge is to foster the development of innovative tools, instruments, or devices that build awareness of evidence-based information about sickle cell disease and its complications. A major advantage of the Challenge prize competition is that it encourages submission of inventive tools from people not typically supported by NIH — for example, those with expertise in fine and performing arts, graphic design, computational modeling, and humanities.

Focus of the Challenge

What is sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. It is a genetic condition that is present at birth. Healthy red blood cells are round and move through blood vessels carrying oxygen to all parts of the body. In SCD, the red blood cells become hard, inflexible, and distorted into a “C” or crescent shape called a sickle. Sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Sickle cells can get stuck in blood vessels and block the flow of blood and oxygen to organs in the body. These blockages cause repeated episodes of severe pain, organ damage, serious infections, or even stroke.

Where can I get more evidence-based information about SCD?

Please review our “Online Resources” section on this webpage where you will find a list of online resources to help you better understand sickle cell disease, its effects, and treatment options.

What does the NHLBI mean by tools, instruments, or devices?

Examples of tools, instruments, and devices include, but are not limited to, a video (documentaries, testimonials, etc.), a software application, a game (board, computer, interactive, etc.), a website, a book (children’s books, k-12 learning tools, etc.), a marketing campaign, a social media campaign, music or a song, a grassroots campaign, or an exhibit.


Who is eligible to participate in the NHLBI Hope for Sickle Cell Disease Challenge?

Eligibility is specified in the Rules for Participating, which can be found on this webpage.

Who can serve as a mentor for the Student Team?

The mentor for the Student Team must be a faculty member employed at a Research Funding Organization, an Organization with Funded Research Grants, a Research Organization (i.e., academic research organizations, research institutes, or research centers), or a Department within a college or university, who has mentored undergraduate or graduate students in the past. He or she must hold the position, including but not limited to: Dean, Lecturer, Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Research Assistant Professor, Instructor, or Teaching Assistant within a Grant or Research Organization or Center, Institute, or Department at a college or university in an academic setting similar to or the same as the Student Team.

Are mentors eligible to win monetary prizes?

Team mentors, including those who are both graduate students and teaching or graduate assistants, are not members of Student Teams and are not eligible to win monetary prizes (in whole or in part).

Can non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents participate in the Challenge? Are they eligible to win the prize (or part of a prize if they are part of a team)?

Non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents who otherwise satisfy the eligibility criteria can participate as members of participating Student Teams. Non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents are not eligible to win monetary prizes (in whole or in part). Their participation as part of a winning team, if applicable, may be recognized when the results are announced. Full eligibility criteria can be found on this webpage.


Is there a limit to the number of Participants on a team?

Yes, there is a limit to the number of Participants on a team. Each Student Team must be composed of at least three and no more than five adult (age 18  or older at time of submission) individuals.

Is a team required?

Yes, a team is required to participate in this Challenge, and all the individuals on the Student Team must meet the eligibility criteria, which can be found on this webpage.

Is an individual allowed to be part of more than one team?

Yes, an individual can be part of more than one team, provided that each team submits a unique Tool.


Must Student Teams register to participate in this Challenge?

Yes, Student Teams must register by 11:59 p.m. EST on February 26, 2021 to participate in the NHLBI Hope for Sickle Cell Disease Challenge. More information about registration is available on the How to Enter webpage.

How does my Student Team submit a Tool?

Tool Submission Packages must be submitted to by 11:59 p.m. EST, March 26, 2021. See “How to Enter” on this website for more details.

What is the deadline for submitting a Tool?

There are two deadlines for this Challenge. Before you submit the Tool, you must register the Student Team for this Challenge. The registration deadline is 11:59 p.m. EST, February 26, 2021. The submission deadline for your Tool is 11:59 p.m. EST, March 26, 2021 in order to be considered.

Is there a page limit for the written entry?

The written entry must not exceed six (6) pages. See “Tool Submission Requirements” on the “How to Enter” webpage for more detail.

Do results of the Tool pilot test need to be included in the written entry?

The written entry must include a description of how the Tool was tested among the population(s) of interest, data describing the outcome(s) of testing the Tool in the population(s) of interest, and whether the Tool met the anticipated goals. For more information, see the Rules and Eligibility page and Evaluation Criterion 4 on the Judging Criteria page.

Can an Individual submit multiple Tools to be judged?

Yes, provided that each Tool is unique and not submitted by the same Student Team. Only one Tool can be submitted into this Challenge by each Student Team.

What criteria is the NHLBI using to judge the Tools?

Submissions will be evaluated using the judging criteria specified on this webpage.

When will the Teams know the results? How will they know if they won?

Captains of winning Student Teams will be notified in June 2021 and announced by the NHLBI.

Can a team publish its Tool in a scientific journal? Can it distribute it publicly? If the team doesn’t  win, can it still publish its Tool?

Dissemination, including publication, of the Tool and development process is allowed for scientific journals, as well as publications for public audiences and the sickle cell health community. 


How will the prize funds be paid? How will prize money be split among members of a winning Student Team?

Award funds will be transferred as one lump sum directly to the designated Student Team Captain. Participants will be responsible for any applicable taxes.

What happens if no winning Tools are identified? What happens if there are fewer than three winning Tools? 

The NHLBI is not obligated to pay out any or all prize funds and reserves the right to select any number of winning Tools up to three total. A winning Tool can only receive one of three cash prizes, which is either $25,000, $15,000, or $10,000. The amount will be determined by federal judges.

What is a Team’s odds of winning a Challenge prize?

This will depend on the number of eligible Tools received and on the number of prizes issued by the NHLBI.

Intellectual Property

How will intellectual property (IP) be handled in this Challenge?

By participating in this Challenge, each Participant grants to the NIH an irrevocable, paid-up, royalty-free nonexclusive worldwide license to reproduce, publish, post, link to, share, and display publicly the contents of the Participant’s Tool Submission Package on the web or elsewhere; and a nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license to practice, or have practiced for or on its behalf, the Tool throughout the world. Each Participant will retain all other intellectual property rights in their Tool, as applicable. To participate in the Challenge, each Participant must warrant that there are no legal obstacles to providing the above-referenced nonexclusive licenses of the Participant’s rights to the federal government. To participate, Participants will not be required to transfer their intellectual property rights to NIH; however, by participating in this Challenge, Participants grant to the federal government the nonexclusive licenses recited herein.


Where can a Student Team get evidence-based information about sickle cell disease?

Please review our “Online Resources” section on this webpage where you will find a list of some online resources to help you better understand sickle cell disease, its effects, and treatment options.

Where can a Student Team get resources to create and test its Tool?

Please review our “Online Resources” section on this webpage, where you will find a list of software programs that can be used to help create and test the Tool for the Challenge.