Health Canada

Drug Checking Technology Challenge

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A drug checking technology challenge to reduce harm

Challenge Statement

Create a rapid, accurate, easy to use, and low-cost testing device or instrument that can be used with minimal training and preparation work.

Who could benefit from this challenge?

  • People who use drugs, to allow them to make decisions that may reduce their risk of overdose
  • Peer support workers and people who work at supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites
  • Emergency responders

Challenge Objectives

The objectives of this Challenge are to:

  • Accelerate innovation to develop an ideal drug-checking device or instrument to be used in a controlled environment (e.g. supervised consumption sites, overdose prevention sites, public health centres, etc.)
  • Provide more valuable information to people who use drugs and those who support them, so they can make informed choices, which can help lower the risk of overdose deaths.
  • Increase uptake of drug-checking services with the goal of providing better and more valuable information to people who use drugs.

Judging Criteria

The concept, instrument or combination of technologies will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Accuracy/Reliability: Provides consistent and reliable results with as few false results as possible.
  • Sensitivity: Able to detect the presence of as many substances as possible, including:
    • Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, even in trace amounts (i.e., highly sensitive as demonstrated by a low limit of detection for specific opioids)
    • Various other opioids
  • Adaptable: Adaptable to detect additional/unknown substances, including non-opioid substances
  • Speed: Able to provide results quickly.
  • Affordability: Priced for broad deployment in resource-limited environments.
  • Ease of use: Useable by the general population with minimal training, minimal sample and device/instrument preparation work.
  • Suitability/Portability: Suitable for use in front line service delivery environments, and preferably portable.
  • Quantification: Able to provide quantity or relative quantity of each component in a sample.
  • Non-destructive: To the extent possible, not consume, destroy or contaminate with reagent any part of the drug sample tested.
  • Robust: Secure and resistant to malfunction.
  • Networked: Able to record and produce reports on data on the prevalence of different types of drugs, and ‘bad batches’.
  • Consultation: Developed in consultation with end users.
  • Adoption: Planned adoption for broad deployment among intended end users.
  • Prototype: The project work plan should aim to produce a functional prototype that can be tested by July 2019.

Eligibility Criteria

The Challenge is open to any for-profit and not-for-profit organizations such as companies, industry associations, Indigenous organizations and research associations, as well as post-secondary institutions.

Only the selected semi-finalists will be able to compete for the pilot phase and grand prize.


Please visit the Process page for details on the challenge timeline.

Authorization required

Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), the unauthorized handling, possession, production, transfer or transport of controlled substances is prohibited. Therefore challenge applicants will need to possess an authorization under the CDSA to be protected from criminal charges.

For information on how to apply for authorization under the CDSA, please contact and include the information that your application is to support your participation in the Drug Checking Technology Challenge.

General terms and conditions

Applicants to the Challenge agree to the following when submitting their application:

  • Applicants agree to comply with all applicable laws.
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate ownership of/or permission to use any intellectual property (IP) used in the Challenge.
  • Applicants may be asked to share their IP with the judging panel in order to complete the final judging.
  • All prize amounts are in Canadian dollars.
  • Applicants must demonstrate respect towards people who use drugs and those that support them throughout the Challenge process.
  • Applicants must be willing to undergo any required training to work with people who use drugs and those that support them, if they will be interacting with them directly or will be working in a supervised consumption site or overdose prevention site during the Challenge.
  • The Minister of Health has the sole discretion to cancel this Challenge or any part thereof at any time.

Challenge details

Key Dates

  • Challenge Launch: October 2nd, 2018
  • Application Deadline: February 1st,  2019
  • First Selection Phase - Semi-Finalists Announced: April 2019
  • Incubation Period: April to September 2019
  • Second Selection Phase - Finalists Announced: December 2019
  • Pilot-Phase: January to August 2020
  • Grand Prize Announced: October 2020

Important resources