Better use of Antibiotics

Develop a rapid test to identify patients with upper respiratory tract infections that can be treated safely without antibiotics.

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.

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.

Better use 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.

Rules & Guidance

Who can join the contest?

The contest will be open to any single person and legal entity or groups of legal entities established in EU Member States or in countries associated to Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme.

How will your application be evaluated?

Once the contest is closed, a high-level jury will evaluate all eligible entries against the following general award criteria:

  • Potential to reduce the use of antibiotics and magnitude of antibiotic use reduction: applicants should include a robust estimation of the antibiotic courses that will not have to be taken in cases of upper respiratory tract infections;
  • Accuracy and safety: applicants should provide a risk/benefit analysis of giving or not giving antibiotics in the case of upper respiratory tract infections;
  • Minimal/non-invasive;
  • Low cost and affordable;
  • Rapid;
  • Easy to use.

The prize will be awarded to the entry that demonstrates the best solution to the challenge whilst meeting the award criteria. The solution should be both developed by the contestant and be novel.

Read the detailed rules of the contest


Winner: Minicare HNL


  • Philips Electronics, Handheld Diagnostics, The Netherlands
  • P&M Venge AB, a Swedish R&D Performing SME

Combined research effort of two partners, PHILIPS Electronics Nederland and P&M Venge AB, has led to a unique solution to reliably detect bacterial infection at the point of care using a fast and easy to use test. Based on the detection of the biomarker Human Neutrophil Lipocalin (HNL) on the Minicare platform from a single droplet of blood, the procedure is a finger prick test and is therefore regarded as minimally invasive. The test takes less than ten minutes to result.

In order to make this marker available to the primary care setting the HNL assay has been transferred onto the CE marked Philips Minicare system - a platform that supports various blood tests, consisting of a point of care analyzer and cartridges supporting different types of tests. Further industrialization of the Minicare HNL is planned in order to bring to the market a reliable, fast and easy to use method to support better use of antibiotics. The product is foreseen to be available to physicians in 2018. The machine is affordable for the physician's office as well as for the emergency department or primary care setting and is easy to use.

Runner up: ImmunoPoC


  • MeMed Diagnostics, Israel
  • University Medical Centre Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • Frog Design, Italy

ImmunoPoC is based on the discovery and validation of a 3 protein host signature (TRAIL, IP-10 and CRP), which involved screening of over 600 human proteins in a 1002 patient prospective clinical study. The ImmunoPoC test is designed and validated to best capture the likelihood of a bacterial infection. The test result includes a quantitative score. The score ranges between 0-100 and is indicative for the infection type: viral infection (score 0-35), equivocal result (35-65), and bacterial infection (score 65-100). The procedure is regarded as minimally invasive: 50µl of blood is needed via a finger prick collection device. The current assay time is around 15 minutes.

Runner up: PulmoCheck


  • Di Dr Andreas Paar kg, Austria
  • Synovo GmBH, Germany
  • Stichting Medisch Centrum Twente, The Netherlands

The “Pulmocheck” System is a point of care diagnostic aid that reacts to produce a blue colour when brought into contact with body fluids derived from a bacterial infection. It relies on 3 enzyme based biomarkers that generate clear color reactions when elevated. The system uses available fluids such as sputum, nasal secretion or swabs from the affected tissue and is considered minimally invasive. The time to result is 2 minutes for the strip test and 6 minutes for the fluid system. The test has been licensed for wound infection detection, and the procedure for licensing airway infection detection is under way.

The practitioner or nurse only needs to apply a fluid sample from the patient to the test (test strip or fluid version), wait for 2- 6 minutes and then compare the color to a reference chart.


The jury is composed of leading experts with a variety of professional experience in diagnostics, infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance.

The full list of the jury members is:

Dr Till BACHMANNGermany
Professor Bojana BEOVIĆSlovenia
Dr Matthew HICKSUnited Kingdom
Professor Jonathan IREDELLAustralia
Dr Minna MÄKIFinland
Dr Monica NEAGURomania
Dr Louise O'CONNORIreland
Dr Enrica OMICCIOLIItaly
Professor Rosanna PEELINGCanada
Dr Herbert WIESINGERAustria


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