Boost Grants have been sponsored by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a Govt. Of India Enterprise, as part of longstanding partnership with UK-based innovation foundation Nesta, which run the Longitude Prize.
The winners are among 54 teams from 14 countries competing for Nesta’s Longitude Prize, a global challenge with an £8 million payout. The challenge is to develop a point-of-care test to detect bacterial infections and ensure that the right antibiotics are used at the right time.
The grants follow a two-day accelerator programme conducted by BIRAC in collaboration with Nesta at the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), IIT Bombay. The accelerator aimed to help teams become industry ready with guidance from business, technical, regulatory and clinical experts, and advice for overcoming hurdles in the development of their diagnostic tests.
Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary Department of Biotechnology, Govt of India and Chairperson of BIRAC addressed the participants and announced the winners.
Usense developed by Module Innovations is a credit card size test, which detects four major uropathogens in a single test. The sample flows into the four corners of the test device, each specific to a particular bacteria. The color change from blue to red indicates the presence of the bacteria in urine that is causing a UTI. The results are seen in 30 minutes and the test can be done at the point of care itself, with results visible to naked eye.
The team is creating a point of care test called Septiflo that can detect and stratify the Gram status of bacterial infections in a drop of human plasma in under 10 minutes. Results are visible to the naked eye and semi-quantified using a color score chart. This information can be of immense value in rapid decision-making for the selection of bacterial Gram-specific narrow-spectrum antibiotics.
OmiX and Spotsense
The collaborative teams are creating a non-invasive diagnostic test using salivary markers of infection as the basis for diagnostics. It uses voltammetric detection of bacteria as the first step of 15 minutes to determine cases that are negative for infection. The cases that are indeterminate or considered positive are then tested for susceptibility to specific antibiotics for antibiotic selection using a novel, rapid, isothermal amplification platform. The assay goes from sample to result (currently) in 60 minutes. Detection is through digital camera readout of a colorimetric signal.
Addressing the participants, Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary Department of Biotechnology and Chairperson, BIRAC said “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.”
Daniel Berman, Lead, Global Health Team at Nesta, said “Indian innovators are strongly represented in the Longitude Prize challenge, with 21 of the 78 global competitors based in India. This strong participation is a result of BIRAC’s strong support to Indian med-tech start-ups. The winning teams have shown significant progress toward developing a point-of-care diagnostic test that will help people to know when they need to use antibiotics and which ones to use. The Longitude Prize competition is tightening, and the race is picking up speed.”
Launched in 2014, the Longitude Prize was originally designed as a five-year challenge and was last month extended from 2019 until at least December 2020. The competition remains open for new teams to apply here.