Antibiotics to be Focus of £10m Longitude Prize

07 July 2014

Antibiotic resistance has been selected as the focus for a £10m prize set up to tackle a major challenge of our time.

Six themes were initially identified by organisers of the Longitude Prize; these were then put to a public vote.  The winning theme was announced on the BBC's One Show.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of a "post-antibiotic era" where key drugs no longer work and people die from previously treatable infections.

The competition is based on the 1714 Longitude Prize won by John Harrison.  Harrison's clock allowed sailors to pinpoint their position at sea for the first time.  In the war between bacteria and medicine, bacteria are winning. Drug resistant tuberculosis, gonorrhea and Klebsiella are popping up around the world.

Antibiotic resistance would not be a problem if there was a continuous supply of fresh antibiotics, but there has not been a new class of the drugs discovered since the 1980s. 

It means there is a terrible future on the horizon - a world without antibiotics.

The World Health Organisation has warned that "many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, could kill unabated".  Cutting open the body in surgery and cancer treatments, which weaken the immune system, will both be more deadly without antibiotics.

Reversing the tide of this war will be a huge challenge and worthy of a £10m prize.

The £10m prize fund has been offered by the innovation charity Nesta and the government-funded Technology Strategy Board.

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