About the Challenge

The use of tobacco claimed more than 100 million lives in the 20th centuryand is expected to claim another billion during the 21st century.  According to the New York Times, millions of dollars are spent educating the public on the devastating effects of the habit. Yet, millions of people, including 3200 youths and adolescents in the United States, make the choice to start smoking every day.

Cigarettes release more than 7,000 chemicals when burned, of which at least 69 are known to cause cancer according to Lung.org.  This deadly cocktail of chemicals contributes to more than six million deaths each year, translating to one smoking-related death every five seconds. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is the number one risk factor for lung cancer, linked to about 80% to 90% of lung cancers in the United States.

Preventing tobacco use among the youth is critical to ending the world-wide tobacco epidemic. Yet, billions of smokers choose not to heed statistical warnings. They maintain a habit, which will reduce their life expectancy by at least 10 years on average. Would that change, however, if we could measure the effect of carcinogens in real time? Is a smoker more likely to quit when they can quantify the damage they are causing to their body? Much like stepping on a scale can help improve weight loss, could a carcinogenic exposure meter be a key smoking cessation tool?

To that end, Janssen Research & Development, LLC and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS are launching the Carcinogenic Exposure Meter QuickFire Challenge, aimed to help foster innovation that can measure the impact of cigarettes with the goal of reducing tobacco use by motivating young smokers to quit smoking. Innovators from across the world are invited to develop “carcinogenic exposure meters” to better quantify the damage known to play a role in carcinogenesis resulting from exposure to tobacco.

[1] Jha P. et al. Chapter 10 of: Cancer: Disease Control Priorities, Third Edition (Volume 3) (2015).

[2] Center for Disease Control and Prevention;

[3] WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2017. Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies.

[4] USA Today


We are looking for proposals that develop approaches and/or devices to measure damage known to play a role in carcinogenesis resulting from exposure to tobacco smoke, using minimally invasive sampling methods, preferably at points of care.

The desired biological effect to be measured would reflect a combination of the degree of exposure and the degree of susceptibility. Damage markers should be recognized as playing a role in carcinogenesis. Ideally, smoking cessation should result in return to normal non-smoking levels of the damage marker.

Proposals containing the following criteria are preferred but are not required. Please keep in mind that no idea is too big or too early for consideration. Applications that clearly describe a concept or path forward to achieve these goals will also be considered during evaluation. 

The Carcinogenic Exposure Meter should:

  • Be minimally invasive with the ability to use for sampling at various points of care.
  • Distinguish between average environmental exposure and effects from tobacco.
  • Include clinical data from human studies. If unavailable, applicants are encouraged to provide a detail path forward to proof-of-concept.

Areas of Interest

  • Consumer products
  • In Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) Medical devices
  • Health technologies
  • Cross-sector initiatives – an integration of one or more the aforementioned areas of focus

Why this challenge matters to us

We believe a good idea can come from anywhere, and it’s our goal to find new and innovative technologies that provide solutions to patients from across the world. Working together, we can spark the next great idea that will change the trajectory of health.

Application process

Solutions will be evaluated by a panel of reviewers and judges on their ability to meet the following criteria:

  • Potential to impact healthcare outcomes in a strategic area of interest
  • Uniqueness of solution & level of competition in current market
  • Quality & feasibility of technology
  • Team credibility & capabilities
  • Clarity of plan: Milestones & defined go/no go decisions


  • August 23, 2018: Applications Open
  • October 26, 2018: Deadline
  • December 2018: Finalist Presentations
  • Q1 2019 (TBD): Winner Announced