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Longitude Prize Bacterial Dx Competition Announces Seed Funding Winners

On average antibiotics add 20 years to each person’s life. The development of antibiotics has been vital to our survival, yet the rise of antimicrobial resistance is threatening to make them ineffective in the future. The World Health Organization estimates that antibiotics treatments add an average of 20 years to all of our lives. But in the 80 years since the discovery of penicillin, our overuse of antibiotics has put pressure on bacteria to evolve resistance, leading to the emergence of untreatable superbugs that threaten the basis of modern medicine.

Clinicians often prescribe broad spectrum antibiotics to sick patients because doctors have to act quickly on imperfect information. These methods put selective pressure on microbes to evolve resistance to antibiotics. Prescriptions from clinicians are just one way in which people access antibiotics, however. There are many routes to these drugs and they vary around the world.

Radical change is needed to address the global problem of growing anti-microbial resistance, to ensure a healthcare system that can sustainably control and treat infections.

We cannot outpace microbial evolution. A new broad-spectrum antibiotic, if applied with current methods, would eventually meet new forms of resistance. The overall solution involves a long-term path towards a more intelligent use of antibiotics enabling a future of more effective prevention, targeted treatments and smart clinical decision support systems.

The Longitude Prize is a £10m prize fund that will reward a competitor that can develop a point–of–care diagnostic test that will conserve antibiotics for future generations and revolutionise the delivery of global healthcare. The test must be accurate, rapid, affordable and easy to use anywhere in the world.

Run by Nesta and supported by Innovate UK as funding partner, the Longitude Prize competition recently announced 13 winners for the second round of seed funding.

Each winning team received awards between £10,000 ($13,210) and £25,000 ($37,927) for their research proposals. Funding for the second round draws on a £250,000 grant from Merck & Company. The groups come from Australia, Belgium, India, Israel, The Netherlands, the US, and the UK.

Teams are at various stages in test developments, ranging from proof of concept to initial clinical validation to fabrication of components for prototypes. They are attempting to diagnose infections including Escherichia coli, urinary tract infections, and sepsis.

Many teams are working on technology that will detect the susceptibility of bacteria to antibiotics, which will support specific antibiotic treatments for bacterial infections and minimize the spread of drug resistance.

Here is an overview of the Discovery Award Winning Teams:
  • ID Genomics, a Seattle-based company, is developing "bacterial fingerprinting" technology that will reduce prescription errors and overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics by improving the speed and accuracy of the antibiotic prescribing process. ID's Clonet rapid diagnostic test determines the bacterial fingerprint of different strains of the main pathogens in urinary tract infections (UTIs) in less than 30 minutes, which is then matched against the company's reference database of thousands of bacterial strains and their profiles. A clinician can then prescribe the antibiotic best suited to their infection.   
  • Coris BioConcept, a Belgium-based company, specializes in developing, manufacturing, and marketing rapid diagnostic tests based on strip chromatography with the use of colloidal gold particles, latex microspheres, or fluorescent dyes (ICT). The ICT range detects infectious disease including enteric and respiratory pathogens, and could potentially be used to confirm if a bacteria is resistant or sensitive to carbapenem antibiotics.  
  • Drug and Diagnostics for Tropical Disease is developing a test to determine if an antibiotic can still bind to its targeted protein or not, providing an answer within minutes without specialized equipment and allowing a doctor to test a patient in the office.
  • A consortium called EPDAL:Bradford and Lincoln plans to design an efficient and inexpensive diagnostic test to identify the most significant gram-negative pathogens. On the premise that protein chemistry is the same in the structure of gram-negative bacteria (GNB) or proteins, the company will exploit the ability of protein elements to select different color complexing molecules and use differential staining to organize bacteria into separate categories based on their protein elements and color complex-elution properties.
  • Embryyo, an Indian company, is working on a diagnostic device that will facilitate in early detection of bacterial or viral infection on the bloodstream, at the onset of a pathogenic infection when pathogen counts are very low. Based on microfluidic cell separation and flow focusing microdevices, the device will potentially aid in the differential diagnosis of bacterial versus viral infections.
  • Encompass Consortium, based in Australia, is developing a method to determine antimicrobial susceptibility with the accuracy and speed needed to influence a physician's initial choice of antibiotics. The company aims to miniaturize and automate its first-generation flow cytometry-assisted antimicrobial susceptibility tests (FAST) for near point-of-care use.
  • Going Against the Flow, another Australian company, is working on a point-of-care test that will detect the activation of neutrophils to allow early detection and treatment of sepsis. Instead of detecting infection directly, the test will rely on the body's sensitive and quick response to bacterial infections using original yet simple methods to detect the early response to neutrophils.
  • Microplate-Strathclyde Biomedical Engineer and SIPBS's approach will bring together expertise to develop a rapid diagnostic test for antimicrobial susceptibility.
  • Module Innovations, an Indian company, is developing USense, a diagnostic platform based on color changing polymers for rapid microbial detection.
  • OxTB, Cambridge and Oxford, is working on a bedside test that uses whole-genome sequencing (WGS) to determine the presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in a clinical sample, predict drug susceptibility, and inform disease surveillance by demonstrating the genetic relationships to previously witnessed strains.
  • Prismatix, an Israeli-based company, has developed a method of phase-shift reflectometric interference spectroscopic measurements (PRISM) that monitor bacterial activity silicon-based microstructures in real time.
  • RAPDIF, based out of The Netherlands, plans to improve the diagnosis of febrile diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. It aims to develop a diagnostic tool that can identify bacterial infections.
  • Rapid AMR Detection Team, from the University of Bristol, is developing an optical technique to quickly detect whether bacteria are alive or not, relying on optical detection of the state of bacteria after injecting antibiotics and not relying on bacterial growth.
Source: The Longitude Prize Challenge

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