Antibiotic resistance has been selected by the public as the focus for a £10m prize set up to tackle a major challenge of our time.

Six themes were initially identified by organisers of the Longitude Prize and put to a public vote. The winning theme, antibiotics, was announced on BBC’s The One Show this Wednesday by Dr Alice Roberts.

It is hoped that the prize will help put antibiotics high on the agenda of politicians and public alike, and lead to innovative ways of tackling antibiotic resistance.

Laura Piddock, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Birmingham, BSAC Chair in Public Engagement and Director of Antibiotic Action responded by saying, “We are delighted. We have long advocated that the issue of antibiotic resistance was, in the words of Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer “a ticking time bomb” and that urgent action was needed to stem resistance and identify solutions to the near empty antibiotic pipeline”

There has not been a new class of the drugs discovered since the 1980s, and the World Health Organisation recently warned that “many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, could kill unabated.”

The University of Birmingham is has a longstanding strength in developing solutions to the global problem, and Professor Piddock was a key player in pitching the theme to the Longitude Prize Committee.

Experts from the Institute of Microbiology and Infection are currently active in the three key areas:

  • Understanding the mechanisms by which bacteria become resistant to antibiotics and spread resistance genes between each other.
  • Investigating where, when and how resistance emerges, and helping develop strategies to minimise selection of resistant bacteria.
  • Developing novel ways to tackle antibiotic resistant bacteria by preventing and improving treatment of infections.

The Longitude Prize Committee will now meet to define the parameters of the call that will look to create a cheap, accurate, rapid, and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will allow doctors and nurses all over the world to better target their treatments, administering the right antibiotics at the right time.

For further information please contact Luke Harrison  at the University of Birmingham press office on +44 (0)121 414 5164. For out of hours enquiries please  email the press office or call +44 (0)7789921165