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UK innovation prize to support antibiotic diagnostics

Longitude Prize 2014 offers £10m to develop tool to fight antimicrobial resistance
longitude prize

A UK innovation prize is set to grant £10m towards research to develop a new diagnostic tool for antibiotics.

The Longitude Prize, which was launched by Prime Minister David Cameron at G8 last year, is looking to support research into a simple test to determine if an infection is caused by bacteria – and therefore can be treated with antibiotics – or if it is caused by a viral infection.

Such a test would help tackle the growing public health crisis of antimicrobial resistance, according to the Department of Health, as incorrect use of antibiotics to treat viral infections gives bacteria a chance to develop resistance to treatment.

Resistance to antibiotics is a serious global healthcare problem, and up to 5,000 people are thought to die each year from antibiotic resistant infections in the UK alone.

The Longitude Prize chose to invest in antibiotic research after the challenge won a public vote launched after a screening of the BBC's science programme Horizon.

The vote saw the development of an antibiotic diagnostic beat off competition from research into dementia, carbon-neutral flight, sustainable food, restoring movement to paralysed people and ensuring everyone has access to safe and clean water.

The results of the vote are an indication of growing public recognition of the importance of addressing antimicrobial resistance, according to Dr Steve Gilman, chief scientific officer at Cubist Pharmaceuticals, one of the leading pharma companies working to develop new antibiotics.

He told PMLiVE: “We followed the vote closely, and I think the decision to award the Longitude Prize to antibiotic research is a signal that there is growing awareness in this area. It seems like there isn't a day that goes by where there isn't some article in the mainstream media about the threat of resistance.”

Dr Gilman also confirmed that Cubist was interested in working on developing a suitable test that can claim the £10m prize, which is supported by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK's innovation agency, and run by innovation foundation Nesta.

The company is gaining attention for new antibiotics, such as the recently FDA-approved Sivextro (tedizolid phosphate), but Dr Gilman told PMLiVE that Cubist is also working on the diagnostic side of things, including a partnership with Cepheid and AstraZeneca to develop a rapid diagnostic test to detect the presence of bacteria.

Gilman explained that such research was an “important” area as mortality can be doubled in patients if an inappropriate antibiotic is given to a patient within the first 24-48 hours of showing symptoms.

From this autumn the Longitude committee will accept research submissions from researchers in the field, with the award open to amateur scientists as well as those in the professional scientific community looking to try and solve the problem of antibiotic diagnostics. The criteria for how to win the £10m prize is currently being finalised.

Article by
Thomas Meek

1st July 2014

From: Research

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