April 17, 2017
2 min read

Semifinalists chosen in antimicrobial resistance diagnostic challenge

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In response to the intensifying problem of drug-resistant bacteria, the NIH, in collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, has developed the Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge, a federal competition awarding up to $20 million in prizes for the development of rapid, point-of-need diagnostic tests, according to a press release.

In the first phase of the prize competition, which supports the National Action Plan for Combating Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria, 10 semifinalists have been chosen from 74 submissions.

Each semifinalist will receive $50,000 to develop his or her concepts into prototypes, but anyone can develop and submit a prototype to compete in the second phase of the challenge, which offers prizes of up to $100,000.

“Diagnostics that are fast, accurate and easy-to-use are critical to address antibiotic resistance that could imperil not only each person’s health but also our nation’s security from natural and intentional threats,” BARDA director Rick Bright, PhD, said in the press release. “The exciting technology envisioned by our challenge’s semifinalists may help us put better tools at the patient’s side.”

According to the CDC, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are responsible for at least 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths in the United States each year.

The competition is calling for diagnostic tests that can identify and characterize antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as well as tests that can distinguish between viral and bacterial infections to guide treatment decisions and avoid overuse of antibiotics. Rapid-detection tests would enable providers to identify infecting pathogens and resistance factors within hours, rather than the hours to days required for standard microbiological cultures.
The diagnostic concepts submitted for the competition were judged by an independent panel of scientific and clinical experts, the release said.

According to Robert W. Eisinger, PhD, special assistant for scientific projects in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Office of the Director, the competition has elicited several impressive ideas for new diagnostics.

Many innovative and novel concepts for rapid, point-of-need in vitro diagnostics were submitted for the first phase of the NIH/BARDA Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge competition,” Eisinger told Infectious Disease News.  “The successful development of one or more of these concepts into prototypes and ultimately, in vitro diagnostics, may lead to better strategies for the use of antibiotics by health care providers. “

For the second phase of the competition, prototype and analytical data submissions are due on Sept. 4, 2018. Up to 10 finalists will be chosen on Dec. 3, 2018. Prototypes will be assessed in the third phase of the competition by two independent Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified laboratories, which will select the final winners. Up to three winners will be announced on July 31, 2020.

Eisinger discussed the importance of rapid tests to accurately identify the organism at the root of an infection.

“The detection of a drug-resistant pathogen allows the health care provider to prescribe the appropriate antibiotic in a timely manner, and ensures that an antibiotic that will not benefit the patient is not prescribed,” Eisinger said. “The faster an accurate diagnosis can be made of the causative agent of an infection, the sooner the patient can be prescribed the correct antibiotic and begin treatment.” – by Jennifer Byrne


CDC. Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance. https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance. Accessed April 17, 2017.  

NIH. Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge selects 10 semifinalists in first phase of competition. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/antimicrobial-resistance-diagnostic-challenge-selects-10-semifinalists-first-phase-competition. Accessed April 17, 2017.

Disclosures: Bright and Eisinger report no relevant financial disclosures.