Indian start-ups focus on diagnostic tests to reduce antibiotic resistance

09 Jan 2019

Alongside awarding our new Boost Grants, we organised an accelerator programme to help the 21 competing Longitude Prize teams across India plan to get their rapid diagnostic tests, which aim to help preserve existing antibiotics and protect new ones, to market.

In partnership with the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) and Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE) the Longitude Prize held a two-day Accelerator Programme at the India Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay to support India-based teams.

“India has one of the highest rates of antibiotic resistance rates in the world. Indian scientists should be active and should be at the forefront of the research to develop a rapid diagnostic test that can help the Indian doctors and doctors around the world to select the right antibiotic, at the right time. I am so happy to see excellent Indian teams develop a very good diagnostic.”

Dr Abdul Ghafur, coordinator of the Chennai Declaration, consultant in infectious diseases and Longitude Prize Judge

The accelerator programme was followed by competitive pitches for our newest monetary awards, called Boost Grants, of up to £100,000. These grants are sponsored by BIRAC, which has had a long standing partnership with Nesta since the launch of the Longitude Prize in 2014.

Day 1: The accelerator programme

The first day began with a welcome from the hosts and an update on the Longitude Prize with an overview of our plans for 2019. Dr Penny Wilson, from Innovate UK and a Longitude Prize Committee Member, gave her perspective as a judge, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of Longitude Prize applications so far, and explained what she hoped to see from teams in the future:

”Data speaks for itself, and I want to see data! A number of teams across the world have a brilliant idea, now they need to go and prove it and show us the data… some of the teams in India were missing the right partnerships. What part of your product could be better and is there anyone you can partner with have the solution? It’s important to be working with the right people and not reinvent the wheel especially for the Longitude Prize because it is first-past-the-post.”

Dr Penny Wilson, Innovate UK and Longitude Prize Committee Member

We also held a clinical validation and clinical utility session, which discussed the analysis and data required from competitors to demonstrate their products utility. This included talks and information given from:  

Dr Sandeep Kadam, KEM Hospital, Pune, outlined current practice in terms of diagnosing sepsis in neonates and the dilemmas he faces on a daily basis. He explained that no ideal biomarker has been identified for infections like this, and if you are a clinician and don’t recognise sepsis, then babies worsen rapidly, and in many cases this results in misdiagnosis and overtreatment. 

He believes the way forward for neonate sepsis diagnostic tests is genomics technology which could identify genes that demonstrate altered regulation during infection; and proteomic and metabolomics profiling technologies that provide insight into a biological sample.

Liz Cross, NHS England Nurse Practitioner, presented her experience of the UK’s primary care approach to respiratory tract infections (RTI) and highlighted the challenges and diagnostic test needs. Liz reduced antibiotic prescribing by 62% at her GP surgery last winter using a C-reactive protein (CRP) test, which resulted in 32% less follow-up appointments.

Boost Grant winners with BIRAC and Longitude Team

Day 2: The accelerator programme

The second day explored the regulatory processes required to receive approval to market tests in India and the UK/Europe. This focussed on minimum requirements in terms of performance and other key criteria. The teams learned from:

Dr Gill Morgan, Sestria Ltd, strongly recommended that companies do their filings in line with the new EU regulations for 2022, as existing guidelines will soon be out of date. Gill’s talk was recorded and can be found here as resource.

Ms Rubina Bose, Deputy Drugs Controller India, from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) – said that they have set up a service to support applications for marketing approval and recommend that companies in India consult with them early in the development process. Contact them here;

Dr Grace Jennings, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Scientific Advisor, gave an introduction to the NICE processes, expectations and how they consider value when recommending new products onto the National Health service (NHS) in UK.

“How well does the technology work compared to current standard practice in the national health service (NHS)? How much does this course of action cost compared to standard practice in the NHS?”

– Dr Grace Jennings, Nice Scientific Advisor

Mr Srikant Sastri, Crayon Data, spoke on the art and science of telling business stories effectively. There are 40,000 start-ups in India, but only 800 (2.5%) of them get venture capital funding every year. He asked the teams how they are different than other start-ups and advised them to wear their ambition on their sleeves and have their killer pitch ready!

Boost Grants

Boost Grants India was available exclusively to Discovery Award winners in India to support the further development of rapid diagnostic test products and projects that are designed to win the Longitude Prize.

Seven teams were invited to pitch for the judging day, addressed by Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary Department of Biotechnology and Chairperson.

“It is a pleasure to see the innovative solutions created by Indian start-ups advancing to a stage which is near to the market. Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem and the Indian government is committed to support a solution for the same. Partnership with Nesta and support for Longitude Prize aspirants is one such effort in this direction. I congratulate the winners and wish them good luck in their journey to develop a solution for the global problem of antibiotic misuse.”

– Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary Department of Biotechnology and Chairperson

We were honoured to have Dr Swarup join and announce the three winners – Module Innovations, NanoDx, and OmiX and Spotsense.

Congrats to all the winning teams!

Antibiotic resistance is a global challenge that impacts countries including India. Indian inventors are in a strong position to solve the Longitude Prize and we look forward to continuing to support their projects, as well as other teams’ in the future.