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‘Longitude Prize’ aims to conserve antibiotics for future generations

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The event at IIT Bombay discussed methods to tackle antimicrobial resistance

Sachin JagdaleMumbai

A Panel discussion on Longitude Prize to tackle antimicrobial resistance was recently held at IIT Bombay. Longitude Prize is a £10-million challenge aiming to conserve antibiotics for future generations. Longitude Prize is the largest UK challenge prize and the first of its kind in the world, to be determined through a public vote, where one winner will be selected. It is being developed and delivered by Nesta with funding partner Innovate UK. This is linked to one of the objectives of Longitude, to attract innovators, start-ups and entrants from a range of unexpected disciplines.

Some of the most acclaimed names from the healthcare field like Dr Rohini Kelkar, Tata Memorial Hospital, Dr BR Das, SRL Mumbai, Dr Nerges Mistry, The Foundation for Medical Research, Dr Mugdha Lele, Venture Centre Pune, Dr Abdul Ghafur, Apollo Hospital, Chennai and Tamar Ghosh, Lead – Longitude Prize, took part in the discussion.

The panelists gave their views on the possible reasons behind antimicrobial resistance. According to Kelkar, there is hardly any hospitals in India that can give authenticate data regarding antimicrobial drug resistance. Ghafur insisted, “Antimicrobial policy should be implemented in India, but it is extremely difficult. If the profits of pharma companies are coming by selling antibiotics then it is very difficult to implement such policies.”

Sticking to the purpose of Longitude Prize there was a common consensus over having a diagnostic machine that can detect infection with drop of blood, drop of urine etc. “We will encourage such applications. It is important to have a technology that will give result in lesser time,” stated Ghafur.

There was a thoughtful debate among panelists and the attendees over the possible social causes of antimicrobial resistance as well. Food adulteration, random use of antibiotics at the places like poultry farms were also termed as culprits. One view was to have indicators to decide where to stop the usage of antibiotics.

Longitude Prize is very specific about diagnostic applications with rapid, cost-effective and accurate as some of the few essential requirements. As per Tamar Ghosh, Lead, Longitude Prize, a winner can be decided at any time up to until the end of 2019. The prize was opened to the world in November 2014 and teams can now register at any time. They can then apply at any time to win, at one of the submission dates, which takes place every four months.

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