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

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 FAQs.

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: December 2, 2019