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Longitude Prize on AMR (antimicrobial resistance) - and the winner is...

In 1714, the Longitude Act was passed, seeking to find a useful method to determine longitude to an accuracy of half a degree. The prize was eventually granted to John Harrison, a carpenter by trade and a self-taught clockmaker. Some 300 years later, a new prize  - the Longitude Prize on AMR - set the task of finding an affordable, accurate, fast and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections, to ensure appropriate use of antimicrobials, such as antibiotics and help tackle the problem of AMR.

I have assisted the Longitude Prize since 2014, by being on the Advisory Panel tasked with reviewing and judging the prize submissions. 10 years on and following the review of almost 50 detailed prize submissions, I am pleased to say that a winner has emerged. Last night I attended an event at the Science Museum in London, where the prize was awarded to Sysmex Astrego for their development of a highly innovative technology for automated antibiotic susceptibility (AST) testing: the PA-100.  Many, many congratulations to them and I look forward to the day when their PA-100 system is found on the desk of every doctor’s surgery. However, recognition and thanks should also go to the other companies who made submissions and I hope that many of their products will be commercialised. The more AST technologies there are, the better equipped the world will be in combatting AMR. 

It is difficult for most of us to comprehend a world without antibiotics. However, the WHO paints a stark picture in terms of the effects of AMR and its threat to humanity. As the WHO points out - “AMR is a problem for all countries at all income levels. Its spread does not recognize country borders”. Development and use of technologies such as the Longitude Prize-winning AST technology developed by Sysmex Astrego, will help ensure best practice when it comes to antimicrobial use and look to extend the useful lifespan of antimicrobials. Of course, the world needs new antimicrobials to be developed and brought to market, but in the meantime, better management of the use of existing antimicrobials will greatly assist in the fight against AMR.

Finally, Tris Dyson, Managing Director of Challenge Works (organisers of the Longitude Prize) said, "When there is a challenge of gargantuan proportions in desperate need of real-world solutions, prizes attract the brightest minds to solve the problem”.

With that I will say goodbye to my involvement in the Longitude Prize, but certainly not my interest in AST and its importance in combatting AMR.

The £8m Longitude Prize has been won after a decade-long competition to find new tools to tackle the scourge of superbugs.

Tags

biotech, life sciences, medical technologies