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HHS Seeks Innovative Ideas to Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria in $20M Federal Prize Competition


A new federal prize competition 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 that identify and characterize antibiotic-resistant bacteria and distinguish between viral and bacterial infections to reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics, a major cause of drug resistance. Two U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) components, the National Institutes of Health and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), are sponsoring the prize to support 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 could identify infecting pathogens and resistance factors within hours, rather than the two to three days or longer needed now. Such knowledge would allow treatments to be tailored, minimizing the broad-spectrum antibiotic approach many clinicians use 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.”

Contestants must submit their concepts by Jan. 9, 2017, for the first phase of the competition. Up to 20 chosen semifinalists will receive up to $50,000 each.

In the second phase of the competition, on Dec. 3, 2018, up to 10 finalists will receive up to $100,000 each to develop prototypes. Two Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified independent laboratories will evaluate the prototypes. Judges will consider these evaluations when selecting the final winners.

The final phase will see winners announced on July 31, 2020.  As many as 3 winners can be selected and will share at least $18 million.

NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority each contributed $10 million to the challenge. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration provided technical and regulatory expertise to the design of the challenge competition. Stakeholder input from a public workshop and a request for information formed the technical criteria, objectives, and performance characteristics of laboratory diagnostics that would be considered for the prize. 

Visit the challenge website to learn more and apply.

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