Our week in India

30 Oct 2015
Written by
Tamar Ghosh
Dr Burra Narsaiah Goud MP and British Deputy High Comissioner Andrew McAllister in Hyderabad

The Longitude Prize recently held 4 events in India, in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai, to raise awareness of the Prize and encourage new teams and individuals to get involved.  

Since the Prize opened to the world in November 2014 we’ve had 115 teams and individuals register and start to work on their ideas, eleven of which are from India. These represent academia, large and small companies, and individuals. We know that there is an incredible amount of innovation happening across the country and we want to make sure we tap into this by attracting those already working in the field of diagnostics development, and those who may be getting involved in this area for the first time.

Longitude Prize is the largest science Prize of its kind and is supported by the British Government, through Innovate UK, as funding partner.  We had incredible support from Her Majesty's Government teams working on health and life sciences, especially from UK Trade, Investment and Prosperity (UKTIP), in organising and delivering the events. We were also very lucky to have the British High Commissioner speak at our event in Delhi and the British Deputy High Commissioners speak at the events in Bangalore and Hyderabad.

A full list of speakers and their positions is available below.

Delhi, 12-13 October

The first event in Delhi was started with Sir James Bevan KCMG, British High Commissioner to India, setting out the history of the Prize and the public vote to select antibiotics. He charted the incredible work happening in the UK to address this topic: including the AMR Review headed by Lord Jim O’Neill, the recently announced Fleming Fund and the inclusion of antimicrobial resistance on the UK Risk Register.

We learned from Professor Raghavan that the Department for Technology is prioritising the need for a cross-discipline approach to AMR. Dr Walia outlined the work of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), especially on the area of data collection, and we heard from laboratory pathologists about the importance of collaboration with the private sector to deliver current testing. Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan, Adviser to the Longitude Prize, also mentioned the recent report, The State of the World’s Antibiotics: 2015,  launched by the CDDEP during the previous week. 

Bangalore, 14 October

Drug discovery firm Bugworks CEO Dr Anand Anandkumar reminded us of the three pillars of resistance: diagnosis, treatment and policy, and the need to avoid looking at any of these in isolation. Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, told us about some exciting new innovations in the field of antimicrobial resistance in  India, inspiring the group to hear from Dr Till Bachmann of the University of Edinburgh and our Prize Advisory Pabel, and myself, about what they would need to do to win and seed funding availability. 

Hyderabad, 15 October

In Hyderabad we were honoured to be joined by Dr Burra Narsaiah Goud, a Member of Parliament from Telengana. His experience as Indian policymaker and laparoscopic and gastrointestinal surgeon came out in his address when he stressed the need for joined–up, multi-sectoral action to tackle AMR. He also committed to raising this issue at state and national levels.

British Deputy High Commissioner Andrew McAllister referred to India as the “emerging giant in science and research” and encouraged the audience to “take the plunge and make history.”

Professor Suman Kapur referred to growing resistance as a “looming enemy” able to survive in ever challenging environments, and Vitas Pharma CEO Dr Rangarajan stressed the pattern of resistance in hospitals and the community, highlighted current practices in combining antibiotics in an ad hoc way. I was also delighted to meet two of our registered teams, Vitas Pharma and Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences

Mumbai, 16 October

In Mumbai Dr Nerges of the Foundation for Medical Research compelled us to consider a campaign approach, where the communication and education is as important as the technical performance. We covered the steps that would need to be taken to ensure we reach out to as wide a group of innovators as possible, making sure we include the established science institutions and the lesser known start-ups. There was a recognition of the importance of young people in the prize and of using social media to engage with them.  

It is difficult to imagine a test winning the Longitude Prize if it couldn’t be used in India, given its population, need for a simple test, and high level of resistance.  The most complex challenge to a successful test is behavioural: ensuring the test result informs decisions around antibiotic purchases.

Across the 4 events I managed to engage with around 250 individuals representing some of the greatest science institutions, large and small companies, and scientific minds.  There is no doubt India is in a great position to solve the Prize and I look forward to continuing these relationships, and seeing even more teams register from India in the coming months.  

Speakers list

Delhi

  • British High Commissioner to India, Sir James Bevan, KCMG
  • Dr. Vijay Raghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology
  • Dr. Sunil Gupta,  National Centre for Disease Control
  • Dr. Kamini Walia, Indian Council of Medical Research
  • Dr. Sanjeev Chaudhry, Managing Director, SRL Diagnostics
  • Prof. Ramanan Laxminarayan, Public Health Foundation of India and Adviser to the Longitude Prize

Bangalore

  • Mr Ian Felton, British Deputy High Commissioner, Bengaluru
  • Dr R.K. Shandil, Foundation for Neglected Disease Research
  • Dr. Abdul Ghafur, Apollo Hospital, Chennai and Longitude Prize Advisory Panel member
  • Dr. Anand Anandkumar, CEO of Bugworks
  • Dr. Taslimarif Saiyed, National Centre for Biological Sciences and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms

Hyderabad

  • Mr Andrew McAllister, British Deputy High Commissioner, Hyderabad
  • Professor Suman Kapur, Senior Professor, Biological Sciences Department, BITS Pilani Hyderabad Campus
  • Dr Vemu Lakshmi, Prof & Head, Dept of Microbiology, Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences
  • Dr Radha Rangarajan, CEO, Vitas Pharma
  • Dr Till Bachmann, Reader, University of Edinburgh, and Longitude Prize Advisor

Mumbai

  • Dr Santosh Noronha, IIT Bombay
  • Dr Himangi Bhardwaj, British High Commission, New Delhi
  • Dr Rohini Kelkar, Tata Memorial Hospital
  • Dr B R Das, SRL Ltd. Mumbai
  • Dr Nerges Mistry, The Foundation for Medical Research
  • Dr Mugdha Lele, Venture Centre Pune
  • Dr Abdul Ghafur, Apollo Hospital, Chennai and and Longitude Prize Advisory Panel member