A federal prize competition launched today is calling for innovative ideas for rapid, point-of-care laboratory diagnostic tests to combat the development and spread of drug resistant bacteria, a rising public health threat. Antibiotic resistant bacteria cause at least 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge will award $20 million in prizes over all phases of the competition for new, innovative and novel laboratory diagnostic tests. The diagnostic tests being sought are those that identify and characterize antibiotic resistant bacteria and those that distinguish between viral and bacterial infections to reduce unnecessary uses of antibiotics, a major cause of drug resistance. The prize is sponsored by two U.S. Department of Health and Human Services components, the National Institutes of Health and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in support of the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria.
“The growing incidence of serious infections from antibiotic resistant bacteria presents a critical risk to the public health of our nation,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “My hope is that this competition will spur exceptional innovators to rise to the challenge and deliver effective tools to help manage this significant problem.”
With real-time detection, healthcare providers would be able to identify infecting pathogens and resistance factors within hours, rather than the two to three days or longer that the standard microbiological culture processes require. Such knowledge would allow tailoring of treatments, minimizing the broad-spectrum antibiotic approach used by many clinicians today.
“This effort even goes beyond public health,” said Nicole Lurie, M.D., M.S.P.H., assistant secretary for preparedness and response. “Combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a priority issue for economic and national security.”
Concepts must be submitted by Jan. 9, 2017, for the first phase of the competition. Up to 20 semi-finalists will be selected from the applicant pool, each receiving up to $50,000. In the second phase of the competition, on Dec. 3, 2018, up to 10 finalists will be selected to each receive up to $100,000. These funds can be used to develop prototypes for evaluation by two CLIA-certified independent laboratories, which will be considered when final winners are selected. In the final phase, winners are expected to be announced on July 31, 2020. The competition specifies that up to three winners can be selected, and winners will share an amount equal to or greater than $18 million.