Startups battling antibiotics resistance get Longitude Prize funding

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    A new round of funding has been awarded to 13 organisations that are creating a rapid, affordable test for bacterial infections that would limit the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.The £10 million Longitude Prize, run by innovation foundation Nesta, was announced in 2013 by UK Prime Minister David Cameron as a step towards conserving antibiotics for future generations. The closing date for applications is September 2019, with seed funding rounds of between £10,000 and £25,000 being administered to help organisations speed up R&D.

    The competition lead, Daniel Berman, told WIRED that the organisations were picked based on novelty and innovation and reflected research that was happening internationally in places such as Israel, India,
    Australia, the UK, Europe, and the US. “We’re really trying to come up with a test that would work internationally so even in places where there’s not a lot of medical access or infrastructure,” he said. “These teams are trying to develop something that could be used in a pharmacy or maybe even by patients themselves like you would a pregnancy test.” Teams that were awarded seed funding this time (the first round was held in November 2016) include EDPAL, founded by two partly-retired Chartered Chemists from Bradford and Lincoln, who worked in the wool industry. They’re taking technology that had been used to make wool fireproof, and using it to create a rapid test that would help identify bacteria. “Of course you could say it’s high risk, but that’s why it stood out because the Longitude Prize is about looking for something really novel,” Berman said.

    Technology startup Module Innovations from India was chosen for its work detecting bacteria that causes urinary tract infections. “What happens today is if someone has extreme symptoms where they’re in a lot of pain, they go to the GP and the GP has to guess whether they have a UTI and which antibiotic they need,” Berman said. Tests for urinary tract infections today take around two days, so Module Innovations are trying to develop a test that would take between 30 and 60 minutes. Their test visually detects four different pathogens that would help doctors decide whether or not a person does have a bacterial infection.

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