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NIH Names Semifinalists in $20M Antibiotic Resistance Dx Competition

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health yesterday announced the 10 semifinalists in the first phase of a $20 million competition to develop novel diagnostics for antibiotic resistance.

The competition was launched in September by the NIH and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to promote the development of new point-of-care in vitro diagnostics to identify and characterize antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as well as to distinguish between viral and bacterial infections.

The NIH said that the semifinalists will each receive $50,000 to develop prototypes of their concepts for submission in the second phase of the challenge, where finalists will be selected to win up to $100,000. In the final phase, up to three challenge winners will be chosen to share up to $18 million to fully develop their prototypes into working diagnostics.

"We were quite pleased with the number of new and innovative concepts we received for this first phase of the competition," Robert Eisinger, special assistant for scientific projects for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Office of the Director, said in a statement. "The response underscores the level of importance the scientific community places on this critical issue."

The newly announced semifinalists include Becton Dickinson's Richard Anderson, who is developing a digital immunoassay based on the company's Veritor platform that measures a panel of circulating host immune biomarkers; Sophia Koo of Brigham and Women's Hospital, who is developing a portable device that measures volatile metabolite profiles in breath to differentiate bacterial and viral pneumonia; and First Light Biosciences' Don Straus, who is using the company's MultiPath fluorescence imaging technology as the basis for a pathogen detection and identification platform.

Others include Ephraim Tsalik of Duke University, who is developing a multiplex PCR test that uses host gene expression to classify viral and bacterial infections; Philips North America's Joe Frassica, who is working on a blood-based assay to detect the infection biomarker human neutrophil lipocalin that would run on the company's Minicare system; and Gregory Loney of Click Diagnostics, who is developing a disposable molecular PCR diagnostic for sexually transmitted infections and antimicrobial resistance.

Also named as semifinalists are Ravi Kant Verma of Spectral Platforms, who is developing tests to characterize the presence or absence of pathogenic microorganisms in blood and urine samples, and to characterize the functional minimum inhibitory concentration of an antimicrobial required to suppress the growth of a specific pathogen; Ken Babock of Affinity Biosensor, who is developing a microfluidics-based phenotypical antibiotic susceptibility test; Ann Falsey of the University of Rochester, who is developing a diagnostic that uses host-specific transcriptional signatures to distinguish bacterial and viral respiratory infections; and Yale University's Ellen Foxman, who is working on a test that evaluates a patient's airway cells to determine whether an infection is bacterial or viral.

Finalists are expected to be chosen on Dec. 3, 2018, with winners of the competition to be selected on July 31, 2020.