Goal: Develop a physiologically competent 3-D retina organoid model 

The National Eye Institute (NEI) has its sights set on stimulating researchers to move rapidly toward treatments for retinal diseases. The NEI 3-D Retina Organoid Challenge (3D ROC) is a prize competition to develop a physiologically-competent 3-D retina organoid  model.  A retina organoid is similar to a human retina but it’s grown in a lab from stem cells. Scientists can use retina organoids to study eye diseases and treatments. 

Ideation challenge 

The first part of 3-D ROC was an ideation challenge. The winning and honorable mention teams were selected in fall 2017.

Implementation challenge

The second part of 3-D ROC, called  Reduction to Practice, launched in 2018. This challenge offers multiple prize opportunities for participants who submit data showing their ability to create functional human retina  organoids.  Phase 2 solutions must be submitted by October 1,  2020. 

Phase 2 submission period: September 14, 2020 – October 1, 2020

Phase 2 judging period: October 2, 2020 – November 20, 2020

Phase 2 winners announced: December 2020

Submissions for this challenge are being accepted via email at NEI3dROC@mail.nih.gov.

The benefits for scientists who  participate in this challenge include: 

  • A chance to win up to $1M in prizes (only U.S. citizens and permanent  residents are eligible to win  prize  money)  

  • Exposure to industry partners, vision advocacy groups, small businesses, cell banks, and  other  stakeholders 

  • The opportunity to team up  with scientists from diverse fields such as developmental biology, stem cell biology, bioengineering, and  materials  science 

Want to learn more? Read the challenge FAQs3-D ROC 2020 Guide for Applicants

Spurring research, collaboration, and new treatments 

With this challenge, we aim to: 

  • Deliver a robust 3-D retina organoid system that the broader  research  community can leverage for their work. 

  • Galvanize cross-discipline collaborations to encourage transformational advances that will result in  meaningful  therapies. 

  • Eliminate limitations in current organoid protocols and accelerate development of  3-D retina organoids that  faithfully model  human  tissue. 

  • Model retinal diseases and test treatments in a system directly relevant  to  humans. 

Thank you to our sponsors! See the list of sponsors.

Get news and stay connected with 3-D ROC

To stay up to date on challenge developments, sign up for our listserv.

For more information or to become a sponsor, email NEI3dROC@mail.nih.gov.


  • NEI awards prize for progress toward developing lab-made retinas (Dec. 4, 2018)

See more 3-D retina organoid challenge news.

Last updated: June 22, 2020