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article imageAntibiotics win public’s vote for Longitude Prize

By Tim Sandle     Jun 26, 2014 in Science
London - The British public has voted for antibiotics as the subject of the Longitude Prize 2014 as a "post-antibiotic" era looms.
The Longitude Prize commemorates the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Act where in 1714 the British government threw down the gauntlet to solve one of the great scientific challenges of that century: how to pinpoint a ship’s location at sea by knowing its longitude. Today, the prize relates to scientific challenges facing the modern world.
The contenders for the prize were:
Flight - How can we fly without damaging the environment?
Food - How can we ensure everyone has nutritious, sustainable food?
Antibiotics - How can we prevent the rise of resistance to antibiotics?
Paralysis - How can we restore movement to those with paralysis?
Water - How can we ensure everyone can have access to safe and clean water?
Dementia - How can we help people with dementia to live independently for longer?
The results of the vote were announced by Professor Alice Roberts on BBC television. The reason for selecting antibiotics is because of the growing menace of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the lack of new antibiotics being developed by pharmaceutical companies. This poses a significant future risk as common infections become untreatable in what some scientists are describing as a ‘post-antibiotic’ world.
The development of antibiotics has added an average of 20 years to people’s lives according to the World Health Organization (WHO); however, the rise of antimicrobial resistance is threatening to make them ineffective.
The challenge ahead is to create a cost-effective, accurate, rapid, and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will allow health professionals worldwide to administer the right antibiotics at the right time.
Over the summer, the UK’s innovation foundation Nesta and the Longitude Committee will develop the challenge criteria that will set out what people need to do to win the multi-million pound prize. Ideas can be submitted through the Longitude Prize 2014 website from the autumn, when the full prize criteria will be announced.
Competitors from across the globe have up to five years to put their solution forward for assessment to the Longitude Committee, chaired by astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees.
Quoted by the Daily Telegraph, Lord Rees said: “I hope that Longitude Prize 2014 will speed up progress towards meeting the challenge of resistance to antibiotics by stimulating invention and innovation — especially 'out of the box' thinking. Over the summer we will firm up the prize rules and set goals that incentivise as many people as possible to participate.”
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