Better use of antibiotics - €1 million
On the evening of 6 February 2017, Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation and Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, awarded the "Horizon prize for better use of antibiotics" and "The EU Health Awards for NGO’s fighting Antimicrobial Resistance" at a ceremony in Leuven, Belgium.
Commissioner Moedas on the left and Professor Per Venge and Jeroen Nieuwenhuis on the right
The €1 million Horizon Prize has been awarded to MINICARE HNL for a finger prick test that can diagnose in less than ten minutes a bacterial infection and identify if a patient can be treated safely without antibiotics. The easy-to-use test is expected to be available for patients by 2018. It has been developed by a combined research effort of P&M Venge AB from Sweden and PHILIPS Electronics from the Netherlands.
The two other finalists were in close competition, presenting innovative patient-focused technologies. They were: PulmoCheck, who are developing a device that reacts within 2-6 minutes to body fluids derived from a bacterial infection, and ImmunoPoc, who developed a finger prick test that can differentiate between bacterial and viral infections within fifteen minutes.
This €1 million prize addresses the issue of the unnecessary use of antibiotics, which is contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. The challenge was to develop a rapid test that allows healthcare providers to distinguish at the point of care between patients with upper respiratory tract infections that require antibiotics and those that can be treated safely without antibiotics.
Why this Prize?
Antimicrobial agents – such as antibiotics – have dramatically reduced the number of deaths from infectious diseases since their introduction 70 years ago. However, through overuse and misuse, many micro-organisms have become resistant to them. It is estimated that each year this growing "antimicrobial resistance" (AMR) causes some 25 000 deaths and over €1.5 billion in healthcare expenses and productivity losses in Europe alone.
Upper respiratory tract infections (such as the common cold, bronchitis and infections of the sinuses, the middle ear and the throat) are a major reason for the prescription of antibiotics, even though many of these infections are due to viruses, where antibiotics are neither effective nor necessary.
Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest challenges facing society today and has led to various complementary initiatives such as the European Antibiotic Awareness Day and the Longitude Prize on Antibiotics.
The aim of the Horizon Prize for better use of antibiotics was to develop a rapid test to identify, at the point of care, patients with upper respiratory tract infections that can be treated safely without antibiotics.
The test needs to be cheap, rapid, easy-to-use for healthcare providers and non- or minimally invasive for patients. By stopping many patients from taking antibiotics needlessly, it will prevent the side effects of such unnecessary treatment, eliminate the cost of prescribing the antibiotics and, most importantly, decrease the development of resistant bacteria.
The rules of the contest specified the targets to be met but did not prescribe the methodology or any technical details of the test, thereby giving applicants total freedom to come up with the most promising and effective solution, be it from an established scientist in the field or from an innovative newcomer.
- 17 August 2016: submission closed
- 18 November 2016: the shortlisted candidates were announced by the European Commission
- 6 February 2017: the winner was officially announced at the award ceremony