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NEI 3-D Retina Organoid Challenge 2020: Reduction to Practice (3-D ROC 2020)

Posted November 23, 2018

The “3-D Retina Organoid” Challenge 2020: Reduction to Practice (the “Challenge”), is an implementation prize competition in which the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health (link is external), is asking for 3-D human retina culture systems with maximal relevance to human physiology and disease. Current retina culture models require over six months to develop and still do not capture the complexities of the human retina. The goal of the Challenge is to use innovative approaches to develop new in vitro 3-D human retina models that recapitulate the organization and function of the human retina and can be used to examine biology and disease processes. This challenge is a follow-on to the recent NEI 3-D Retina Organoid Ideation Challenge, and aims to invoke scientific and technological development of the model systems proposed during that ideation competition. Technological breakthroughs in this arena could allow researchers and physicians to better understand, diagnose, and treat retinal diseases.

Image credit: National Eye Institute


Submission deadlines are at 2:00 pm ET on the final day of each submission period.

The Challenge begins: February 14, 2018

  • Phase 1 submission period: September 4, 2018 – October 1, 2018*
  • Phase 1 judging period: October 2, 2018 to November 30, 2018
  • Phase 1 winners announced: December 2018
  • Phase 2 submission period: February 14, 2020 – March 2, 2020*
  • Phase 2 judging period: March 3, 2020 – April 30, 2020
  • Phase 2 winners announced: May 2020

*To be eligible to submit a solution for to each phase, the team lead must register through, specify the team members by uploading a list, and submit an abstract by one week from the first day of the open submission period. The abstract can be edited/revised and full solution can be added up to the last date of the phase 2 submission period. See more details under Registration Process for Participants (below).

The NIH may shorten the submission period for Phase 2 and adjust dates for judging and winner(s) announcement if the winners’ submissions and feasibility assessments from the Phase 1 suggest shorter Phase 2 execution period is possible. The NIH will announce any changes to the timeline by amending the Announcement Notice on NEI’s 3-D ROC website and 3-D ROC’s page on


Around the world, an estimated 285 million people are visually impaired; of these, 39 million are blind. In many cases, blindness and vision loss are the result of retina-damaging diseases that, if better understood, could be treated or have interventions applied to stop degeneration or provide protection to remaining viable cells. One limitation in furthering retinal research is that eye tissue is not readily available to study disease processes and test new therapies. However, retina biology researchers have developed methods to grow 3-D retina models in vitro from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and human embryonic stem cells (hESC). Current protocols vary in their strengths and limitations, but none can robustly recapitulate the complexity and functionality of the retina. In this Challenge, NEI seeks 3-D human retina organoid prototypes that are physiologically relevant. Such model systems could be transformational for vision research and regenerative medicine. New models could be used for applications such as understanding eye development, studying retinal biology, modeling diseases, identifying and testing treatments, and serving as a tissue source to use in transplantation. In this Challenge, solution(s) should yield reproducible, retina organoid models that represent the complexity, structure, and function of the human retina and are amenable for use in either modeling diseases or high-content screening (see Evaluation Criteria under Basis Upon Which Submissions Will Be Evaluated).


The total prize purse for this 2-Phase Challenge is up to $1,000,000. Up to 6 winners will be awarded up to $100,000 each at Phase 1. Phase 2 will have up to 3 winners and the prize purse will total $400,000 plus any Phase 1 prize money that was not awarded for Phase 1. Additional teams may be recognized with non-monetary awards. The NIH reserves the right to cancel, suspend, and/or modify this Challenge at any time by amending the Announcement Notice on NEI’s 3-D ROC website and 3-D ROC’s page on In addition, the NIH reserves the right to not award any prizes if no solutions are deemed worthy. The Award Approving Official will be Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health.

Prizes awarded under this competition will be paid by electronic funds transfer and may be subject to Federal income taxes. HHS/NIH will comply with the Internal Revenue Service withholding and reporting requirements, where applicable.

Source: National Eye Institute

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