[Ip-health] European Commission announces the winner of the Horizon Prize - Better Use of Antibiotics

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Feb 6 10:11:38 PST 2017



6 February 2017

Awarding the Horizon Prize – Better Use of Antibiotics

Ladies and gentlemen.

We are here today because of antibiotics. The discovery of these compounds,
and antimicrobials in general, was one of the biggest achievements of the
last century. They provided mankind with incredibly valuable resources to
improve our health.

Most bacterial diseases used to be extremely deadly. Now antibiotics mean
that people often fully recover in just a few days. Their contribution to
human health cannot be exaggerated. Antibiotics have been the main driver
in the impressive increase in life expectancy during the last century.

Nowadays they are also essential for complex medical interventions. Hip
replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy and the care of
premature babies. All of these would be nearly impossible without

However, our ability to treat and prevent infectious diseases is now
seriously jeopardised. Microbes are becoming resistant to more and more
antimicrobials. And they are spreading. The previous speakers have talked
about the consequences of resistance. The disastrous impact it has on human
lives. And the great economic cost to our society.

I want to mention one example, that I read about recently. In September a
woman in the USA, in Nevada, died from an infection. An incurable
infection. The bacteria that killed her were found to be resistant against
26 different drugs. In fact it was resistant to every single drug that
doctors in the US have.

This is not just concerning. I find it genuinely frightening. It is crystal
clear that we are losing the effectiveness of these valuable drugs. We have
to take action!

So what can we do as the European Commission?

Firstly we must raise awareness among the public. Both of the danger of
AMR, and of the best way for them to treat infections.
Secondly, we need to find new business models. Ones that de-link profits
from volumes of sales. We have a project doing just this, called Drive-AB.
And thirdly, we must develop ways of preventing the misuse of our precious

It is so important that we only use antibiotics when patients need them.
This sounds simple, but doctors have to rely too much on their experience
and gut feeling to diagnose.

Is it bacterial?
Is it viral?
In this age of technology this is not acceptable. We need novel diagnostic
tools that can help make the right diagnosis.

For this reason in 2015 the European Commission launched the Horizon Prize
on Better Use of Antibiotics. This offered a reward of €1 million for a
rapid test to tell which airway infections can be treated safely without

Prizes are an important tool to stimulate innovation. In 2014 a German SME,
CureVac, won the EU’s first innovation prize. The technology they developed
brings life-saving vaccines to people across the planet, in safe and
affordable ways.

One year later, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced an
investment of €46 million in CureVac. This will accelerate the development
of CureVac's vaccine technology. And the production of numerous vaccines
against infectious diseases.

This is a beautiful illustration of what the European Commission is trying
to do. To stimulate innovation and attract additional private investment in
research. To launch research groups and companies to new heights.

With this in mind I am pleased to award the first Horizon Prize today. And
I am very glad that it is in such an important area as helping us to use
antibiotics more wisely.

All three finalists have used a fantastic approach that does not aim to
detect the various bugs directly. Instead their technologies focus on the
patient. Our body reacts to an infection and it is this reaction that can
be detected by the three novel technologies.

But, this competition has only one winner. A panel of scientific experts
has carefully evaluated all applications to choose the winner of our €1
million Horizon prize.

I am pleased to announce that this reward goes to Minicare HNL!

Minicare is a combined research effort of P&M Venge AB, an SME from Sweden,
and PHILIPS Electronics from the Netherlands. They took P&M Venge’s
knowledge on infection markers, and combined it with a tool developed by

This resulted in a finger-prick test that can almost instantly diagnose
whether an infection is bacterial or viral. This tells a doctor immediately
whether or not a patient can be treated safely without antibiotics.

I would also like to congratulate the two runners-up. One of these,
ImmunoPoc, is also working on a finger prick test that can differentiate
between bacterial and viral infections within fifteen minutes. The other,
PulmoCheck, are developing a device that reacts within two to six minutes
to body fluids from a bacterial infection.

I congratulate them on their tremendous effort. And I wish them every

All three finalists that came here tonight are working to revolutionise
diagnosis. To break the doubt that leads to out-of-control antibiotic use.

I hope their products will soon be available to doctors. This will mean
that patients receive better treatment. For the diseases that they're
actually suffering from.

This is the heart of smart medicine. Treating the right patient. At the
right time. With the right drug.

We know how high the stakes are. I hope that today's prize leads to great
things. And I look forward to hearing about all three of the finalists in
the future.

Thank you.

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