Prize Winners Announced in $1.55M Challenge for New Solutions to Detect Opioids in International Mail

Newswise — WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) announced the grand prize winner and runner-up in the Opioid Detection Challenge, a $1.55 million global prize competition for rapid, nonintrusive detection tools that will help find illicit opioids in international mail.  

IDSS will receive the grand prize of $500,000 for its detection solution, which combines a 3D X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanner with automated detection algorithms. The IDSS Detect 1000 identifies anomalies in X-ray images based on the scanned item’s features and physical properties.

The runner-up, One Resonance, will receive $250,000 for its detection solution, the QROD system, which is a quadrupole resonance technology that uses radio-frequency signals to search for specific materials. An alarm is triggered when a signal associated with an illicit substance is detected.

“The influx of illicit drugs is one of the nation’s greatest threats,” said William N. Bryan, DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “Through this combined effort to address the trafficking of opioids, S&T, our federal partners, and the private sector have produced technology solutions that will better protect the American people from the effects of this devastating crisis.”

Mr. Bryan was joined by CBP Deputy Commissioner Robert E. Perez, ONDCP Director Jim Carroll, and USPIS Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale to announce the winners and recognize the finalists.  

“The Trump Administration is committed to reversing the effects of the drug crisis through both traditional practices and creative, unique methods,” said ONDCP Director Carroll. “This Challenge brought our whole-of-government approach together with the private sector to find ways to stop the flow of deadly substances into our country, which raise a grave national security concern. I congratulate the winners and thank them for sharing our commitment to accomplishing our ultimate goal of saving American lives.”

“In fiscal year 2019, our agents and officers seized nearly 2,600 pounds of fentanyl compared with 1,895 pounds in fiscal year 2018,” said CBP Deputy Commissioner Perez. “This is an alarming 35% increase over the course of one year and international mail has been one of the places that we are seeing illicit opioids come into the United States. Emerging technologies that can help us stop the flow of opioids across our borders are critical to the fight against the opioid epidemic.”

USPIS Chief Postal Inspector Barksdale added that, “opioids, such as fentanyl, have become a public health crisis, impacting our nation, states, towns, communities, homes and families. Through this Challenge, the Postal Service and other agencies are joining forces so that together we can develop new technologies that will help combat the opioid epidemic and thwart the distribution of illegal drugs or other harmful substances through the mail. The Postal Inspection Service is dedicated to ridding the mail of illicit drug trafficking, preserving the integrity of the mail, and most importantly, providing a safe environment for postal employees and the American public.”

Earlier this year, eight finalists received $100,000 each and advanced to the next stage of the Challenge. Since June, finalists continued to develop their plans into prototypes that underwent vigorous testing at the Transportation Security Laboratory. This culminated in a live test of their prototypes.

Winners were selected by a judging panel of experts in forensic science, postal operations, drug interdiction, and industrial engineering using specific selection criteria to identify technologies that will help intercept the flow of opioids through international mail.

S&T and its government partners plan to continue working with the providers of the most promising Challenge solutions to further develop prototypes and establish follow-on production agreements. The government plans to deploy these tools in international mail facilities, express consignment facilities, and other environments across the country that call for rapid, accurate detection of opioids and related substances.

For additional information about the Opioid Detection Prize Challenge and other S&T prize competitions, visit https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/Challenge-Updates.

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