Antibiotic resistance chosen for £10m Longitude prize (Wired UK)


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A public vote has
selected
 antibiotic resistance as the focus of a £10
million prize fund set up to tackle a major challenge of our
time.

Antibiotics such as penicillin are becoming increasingly
ineffective at treating infection as bacterial species evolve to
become resistant to them. There has not been a new class of
antibiotics since Lipopeptides were discovered in 1987, leading the World Health
Organisation to warn repeatedly that the world is facing a
“post-antibiotic era” where people die of formerly treatable
infections.

Martin Rees, chair of the Longitude Committee and Astronomer
Royal, said he hoped the incentive provided by the £10 million
prize would “speed up progress towards meeting the challenge of
resistance to antibiotics by stimulating invention and innovation
— especially ‘out of the box’ thinking”.

There was some controversy over the creation of the prize — Alice Bell saw it as patronising, while Phillip Ball found the voting format crass. Other topics
that the public were asked to vote on included environmentally
friendly flight, sustainable food production, human paralysis,
clean drinking water and helping people with dementia.

Speaking on the One Show, BBC science presenter Alice Roberts
said: “There were some amazing challenges, but this is such an
important one facing us at the moment. From here, the Longitude
Committee will reconvene and they will tighten up exactly what the
challenge is going to be. We know it’s going to be something about
how we tackle antibiotic resistance; it could be a new way of
diagnosing a bacterial infection versus a viral infection.

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The Longitude Prize is based on a £20,000 competition of the
same name run in 1714 to find a way for sailors to accurately
determine their position at sea. It was won by John
Harrison
, a self-educated carpenter who built the marine
chronometer
.

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Source: wired.co.uk
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