Longitude Prize goes to Tokyo

11 Jan 2016
Written by
Tamar Ghosh
Prof Peter Piot addressing the audience at the British Embassy in Tokyo

As we approach the third submission deadline for the Longitude Prize, 31st January, we are highlighting the most recent event to encourage competitors, this time from Japan.

At the end of 2015 we held our last competitor event of 2015 in Tokyo, in partnership with the British Embassy in Japan and the Science and Innovation Network. These events have taken place across the UK and also in India, China, Germany, Switzerland and the US in the last year to raise awareness of the Longitude Prize.  Eighty three people came along to the event at the British Embassy in Tokyo on the 22nd December, from a combination of universities, industry of all sizes and also innovators from biosciences and beyond.  

Scientific and government support

The event was opened by Julia Longbottom, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy, who highlighted the extensive activity of the British Government on the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). She encouraged teams from Japan to enter the Longitude Prize, saying “With its strong pharmaceutical medical technology and diagnostics, not to mention outstanding academic expertise, Japan should be in it. And Japan can win it.”

Baron Professor Peter Piot, member of the Longitude Committee, co-Chair of the Prize Advisory Panel, and Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, then explained the long history of the Prize and the uniqueness of the prize approach to broaden the range of entrants and therefore ideas. As he said, “The Prize needs novel approaches”.

Dr Yasuhiro Suzuki, a senior official of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare highlighted Japan’s commitment to AMR, including in the upcoming G7 meeting which Japan is hosting this year: “The issue of AMR will appear as a top prioritised agenda.”

The audience were taken through the criteria and what teams would need to do to win the Prize, followed by Professor Kiyoshi Kurokawa, President Council and Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo, reflecting that although the Prize is tough, it is nevertheless worth trying.  He drew a parallel to the human genome project that was accomplished successfully and earlier than expected with international competition and broad cooperation. He described the Prize as a “great chance for everyone to try and apply with partners who have different background and expertise in an interdisciplinary way.”   

Dr Ichiro Kurane, Head of National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), confirmed AMR as one of the main targets of the NIID’s work through the work of its Japan nosocomial infections surveillance (JANIS).  This commitment was also supported by Professor Intetsu Kobayashi of Toho University, who emphasised the increased impact of resistance to antibiotics on human health, and how it’s “threatening our daily lives”, evidenced through his recent research on carbapenem resistant bacteria.

Dr Dale Athey, Chief Executive officer of O J-Bio, a Japan-UK collaboration between Japan Radio Company and Orla Protein Technologies Ltd, showcased the results of this kind of cross-discipline and global collaboration, with their portable diagnostic which allows quick mobile enabled testing and monitoring.

Japan in the race

A discussion followed about how the Longitude Prize can encourage innovation in this area from individuals and teams across Japan, and about some of the emerging and exciting technologies in this area. Over the coming months we hope to continue our work in raising awareness of the prize, as well as doing what we can to enable collaborative teams to come together and work on new ideas.

I’m delighted to say that since the event we have had our first team register from Japan, which means that teams and individuals in 27 countries are working on entries.

The next submission date for registered teams to try to win the Prize by making a full entry is 31st January, in just a couple of weeks. We hope registered teams are considering making a submission soon. Teams need to be registered on the website by the 24th January in order to submit an entry to win, so you need to fill in our registration form within the next week.

Meet Tprobe, our first registered team from Japan.