The Longitude Prize 2014 was announced a few weeks ago to much media fanfare. After a vote, the British public decided that the prize should focus on the rise of antibiotic resistance. Joshua Ryan-Saha, Assistant Manager of the Longitude Prize, blogs here, asking members of the Society for General Microbiology to have their say on the design of the prize.
The growth of anti-microbial resistance will impact all of us. The World Health Organization estimates that antibiotic treatments add an average of 20 years to our lives. However, our overuse of antibiotics has allowed bacteria to evolve resistance, leading to the emergence of untreatable superbugs that threaten one of the cornerstones of modern medicine. How we respond to the growing global antimicrobial resistance is one of the most important science policy questions of our age.
The Longitude Prize 2014 will encourage the development of new point-of-care diagnostics that will help clinicians make better informed decisions when prescribing antibiotics, restricting their use only to those cases when they are beneficial. We know that diagnostics alone can’t solve the problem of anti-microbial resistance, but they are a central part of addressing the problem of antibiotic overuse. While the £10m prize fund is comparatively small when compared with the total global research spend in this area, a prize of this scale could make a tremendous difference in stimulating new and innovative diagnostic methods.
Over the last year, Nesta and our partners Science Practice have been working with a range of experts in this field to design a challenge prize that will encourage individuals and teams from across the world to try and solve it. In our paper for open review, we have outlined what we have come up with so far. We have tried to design this prize in a way that makes it potentially achievable within the five-year timescales, while ensuring it is challenging enough to encourage breakthrough innovations. We also hope that this challenge is accessible to a wide pool of potential competitors.
Microbiology is clearly a central aspect of antimicrobial resistance, and microbiologists will likely compete for the Longitude Prize 2014. As such, your input on the open review would be particularly valuable, both for Nesta and for members of the Society for General Microbiology. With the help of your thoughts and comments on the paper for open review we can formulate a truly effective prize.
What happens next?
Working with the Longitude Committee, we will use the responses to the open review to amend and adjust our challenge criteria. Subsequently, in October this year we will announce the full judging criteria and terms and conditions which will explain exactly what you need to do to win the prize.
At this point we will ‘fire the starter’s pistol’ for innovators and inventors from across the world to begin developing new point-of-care diagnostics that will help us preserve the efficacy of antibiotics for future generations by addressing the problem of antibiotic overuse and inappropriate use.
We believe that the Longitude Prize will be more robust and accountable after this process is complete, so please read our report and provide your feedback. The open review closes on 10 August.