The US FDA has launched the 2016 Naloxone App Competition, a public contest to create a mobile app to combat the rising epidemic of opioid overdose.

The FDA wants the proposed app to connect opioid users experiencing an overdose with nearby carriers of the prescription drug naloxone (the antidote for an opioid overdose). Connecting the overdose victim with a naxalone carrier would increase the likelihood of timely administration and overdose reversal, the FDA says.

The FDA is inviting computer programmers, public health advocates, clinical researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators from all disciplines to develop the app.

“The goal of this competition is to develop a low-cost, scalable, crowd-sourced mobile application that addresses this issue of accessibility,” said Peter Lurie, MD, MPH, associate commissioner for public health strategy and analysis at the FDA. “Mobile phone applications have been developed to educate laypersons on how to recognize an overdose and administer naloxone, and to connect bystanders with individuals in need of other medical services, such as CPR. To date, however, no application is available to connect carriers of naloxone with nearby opioid overdose victims.”

Naloxone is currently only available in the US by prescription but many states have taken steps to make it more readily accessible to first responders, community-based organizations and laypersons, including friends and family of opioid users. In fact, the number of laypersons provided naloxone nearly tripled between 2010 and 2014, according to the US CDC. However, persons carrying naloxone may not be present when an overdose occurs.

Teams and individuals wishing to participate in the competition will have until Oct 7, 2016 to register. Registrants will have access to background resources, including information on the opioid epidemic, the approved formulations of naloxone, the public health recommendations for the safe and appropriate use of naloxone and FDA guidance on mobile medical applications.

On Oct 19-20, 2016, the FDA will host a two-day code-a-thon on the FDA campus and virtually for registered entrants to develop their concepts and initial prototypes. All code will be made open-source and publicly accessible, and collaboration will be encouraged. Competition participants will then independently refine their concept and submit a video of a functional prototype along with a brief summary of their concept for the development and use of the app by Nov 7, 2016.

A panel of judges from the FDA, NIDA, and SAMHSA will evaluate submissions and the highest-scoring entrant will receive an award of $40,000. Following the competition, entrants also may apply for NIDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, subject to eligibility requirements set forth in the SBIR funding opportunity announcement, to further develop their concepts and to develop data to evaluate their real-world impact.