Environmental Laboratory

Antibiotics wins public’s vote to become Longitude Prize 2014

Jun 27 2014 Comments 0

The British public has voted for antibiotics as the subject of Longitude Prize 2014. The results of the vote were announced this evening by Horizon’s Professor Alice Roberts on BBC One’s The One Show.

The first public vote of its kind to select the focus of Longitude Prize 2014 was opened on 22 May following BBC Two’s flagship science programme, Horizon, which exclusively gave details on the challenges. The programme explored the problems and possible solutions to each of the six challenges put to the vote. The challenges to vote on 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?

With antibiotics now the focus of the £10 million prize fund, the challenge is now set to find a way to prevent the rise of resistance to antibiotics within five years.

The development of antibiotics has added an average of 20 years to our life¹, yet the rise of antimicrobial resistance is threatening to make them ineffective. This poses a significant future risk as common infections become untreatable. The challenge 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.

The race is on to find the solution. Those who think they have what it takes to solve the Longitude Prize for Antibiotics challenge should register to compete:  www.longitudeprize.org (from midday on 26 June).

Over the summer, Nesta and the Longitude Committee will develop the challenge criteria that will set out what people would need to do to win the multi-million pound prize. Ideas can be submitted through the Longitude Prize 2014 website from autumn 2014, 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.

Lord Martin Rees, chair of the Longitude Committee and Astronomer Royal, 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."

Longitude Prize 2014 has been developed and run by Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation.  It was launched by the Prime Minister at G8 last year and is being supported by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, as launch funding partner.

The 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. The challenge was solved by watchmaker and carpenter John Harrison who designed the chronometer, the first seafaring clock that allowed accurate navigation. The solution not only led to safer sea travel but opened up global trade.

From midday on 26 June, people can register an interest in competing for the Longitude Prize 2014 at www.longitudeprize.org

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