Video Challenge 2020
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2020 Video Challenge for High School Students

Molecular Mechanisms
of Opioid Action



Opioid drugs include the illegal drug heroin as well as pain relievers available by prescription including oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone. These drugs mimic the peptide neurotransmitters produced in our bodies such as endorphins, enkephalins and dynorphins. Both, the innate (endogenous) opioids and the opioid drugs bind to the opioid receptors present on neuronal cells and alter the molecular pathways for communicating pain.

When used as prescribed by the physician, opioid drugs are very effective in treating moderate to severe pain. However, the misuse of these drugs has led to a spike in opioid addiction that is currently plaguing the nation. From 1999 to 2017, overdoses related to prescription opioids have led to almost 218,000 deaths (1). In addition, more than 80% of heroin addicts first misused prescription opioids (2).

One of the ways to address this crisis is improving patient awareness.  Your video should tell a story that includes the molecular mechanism of opioid action that connects in some way to the current opioid crisis.

2020 Challenge

In this challenge, we ask you to tell a story that communicates:

  1. Opioid receptor agonists: similarities and differences between endogenous opioids and opioid drugs and their interaction with opioid receptors

  2. GPCR signaling: introduce one molecular mechanism of pain signal modulation induced by the activation of the G-protein by opioids. This might include:

    • Preventing of neurotransmitter release
    • Modification of the action of potassium channel
    • Modification of the action of adenylyl cyclase
  3. Opioid receptor antagonists: how Naloxone works to prevent death from opioid overdose

  4. Opioid crisis: ways to fight opioid crisis and prevent opioid abuse

Use the Learn section for background information and access relevant 3D structures and additional resources. Use the Participate section for instructions on video creation.

A PDF flyer describing this challenge is available for download and distribution.

Video Requirements

A qualifying entry should:

  • Tell a 2-minute-long, coherent story that incorporates molecular and public health components
  • Have a title that represents the video's story
  • Include a picture or animation of a protein from the Protein Data Bank (PDB) archive related to the topic. Example structures with visualization resources are included in the Learn section in Table 1 and Table 2
  • Included narration must be at natural speed, not artificially sped up
  • The end credits can run in addition to the 2 minutes allotted for storytelling. Credits should include the references to all research materials, citations of the PDB structures shown, and image and sound credits
  • The video should end with the PDB-101 branding slide

The target audience

  • Imagine you are teaching the content to another high school student, who has overall knowledge of biology similar to you, but have not studied the molecular mechanisms of opioid action in greater detail.


All students enrolled in any high school in the United States and equivalent level home-schooled students are eligible to participate in groups comprising from 1 to 4 students. Each participant has to submit the Permission Form in order to be eligible to win the challenge.

Important Dates

Submission Opens January 14, 2020
Submission Closes April 28, 2020 at 11:59 pm PST
Judging May 5 - May 12, 2020
Results Award winners will be announced at and on May 19, 2020.


All qualifying entries will be eligible to win one or more of the following:

Judge's Award

A panel of expert judges will review the videos. All qualified entries will be judged on the following criteria (see the detailed description of each criterion):

  • Story Telling 20%
  • Quality of Science Communication 30%
  • Quality of Public Health Message 10%
  • Originality and Creativity 20%
  • Quality of Production 10%
  • Proper Accreditation 10%

The top three entries will be recognized on,, and in an upcoming RCSB PDB Newsletter.

Viewer's Choice Award

As voted by the viewers.


  1. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2016. Available at
  2. K.E.Vowles, M.L. McEntee, P.S. Julnes, T. Frohe, J.P. Ney, D.N. van der Goes. (2015) Rates of opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction in chronic pain: a systematic review and data synthesis. Pain 156(4): 569-576. doi:10.1097/01.j.pain.0000460357.01998.f1.