By Dr Taslim Arif Saiyed,
AMR DxC, the international Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostics Challenge competition was developed to galvanize the next generation of researchers from over the world into action towards developing rapid diagnostics to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance & use diagnostics in an economically sustainable way.
The objectives of AMR DxC are to connect and inspire fresh scientific talent, spark off ideas and create a network for international, interdisciplinary and innovative R&D on AMR diagnostics.
The first AMR summer school organized in India brought together researchers from all over the country and also from Edinburgh to explore new questions that might help address long-standing questions of AMR Diagnostics. Researchers from Delhi, Chandigarh, Pune, Hyderabad, Imphal, Kolkata, Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Srinagar, Guwahati, Chennai and Bangalore flocked at C-Camp to enrich the AMR research space with innovative ideas.
AMR has taken the centre stage internationally and now global campaigns raise awareness for this burning threat to global health. Rapid diagnostics to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance needs to be developed and use diagnostics in an economically sustainable way need to be highlighted. Antimicrobial Resistance and the development and introduction of innovative diagnostics that transform healthcare are huge challenges, which can be only overcome by collaboration across disciplines, countries, healthcare systems and economies. Innovation is also needed as to how the brightest minds can be attracted to the field.
Harnessing science & technology for better future
In the Indian and UK Prime Ministers, Narendra Modi and Theresa May noted that the exponential growth in science and technology programmes in India provide immense possibilities for further expanding bilateral collaboration. India-UK joint funding now stands at over £200 million and its leveraged impact on the economies and societies is several times higher.
They announced new research partnerships worth £80 million including a new Joint Strategic Group on Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) with a joint investment of up to £13 million. The prime ministers recognised that Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) is a global challenge and further recognised the commitments made at the G20 and UNGA earlier this year.
The World Health Organization launched the first World Antibiotic Awareness Week 16th 22nd November 2015. The importance of AMR as a threat for public health and economic growth for India and UK has been underscored. It was reported that both Prime Ministers of India and UK recognized and supported a high-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance at the 2016 UN General Assembly as well as a global summit on AMR. AMR DxC kicked off with a bilateral UK-India Autumn School in Edinburgh in 2015.
The four-day AMR DxC Summer School, 2017 from 4th to 7th July witnessed exciting events on Antimicrobial Resistance, which is a global concern now-a-days.
This workshop was organized aiming an overview of current research related to the field and also an opportunity to discover interesting connections, to identify well-defined research questions with probable solutions. These new questions might help to address long-standing questions of AMR Diagnostics.
Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest healthcare challenges mankind has faced. Events such as discovery of the plasmid-borne mcr-1 gene that confers resistance to colistin1 (a last-line drug to treat infections with carbapenem-resistant Gram-negative bacteria), highlight the urgency and scale of the problem. Antimicrobial resistance is recognised as a global public health issue and policy makers are increasingly convinced of the need for a coordinated global and interdisciplinary response.
The recently published review on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) chaired by Lord O’Neill predicts that AMR will cause an additional 10 million deaths per year and a loss of up to US$100 trillion from global GDP by 2050. Leading international organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the European Commission and many national governments identified this as an urgent problem, which demands immediate action. Our ability to treat infections that once were believed to be under control is now at risk. A ‘post-antibiotic era’ is becoming a real problem for the 21st century. On 21st of September 2016, world leaders from all 193 member states signed a declaration to combat the proliferation of antibiotic resistance during the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.
The UK government’s Review of Antimicrobial Resistance, chaired by Lord O’Neill highlighted the important role for rapid diagnostics to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance and outlines funding models to develop and use such diagnostics in an economically sustainable way. To stimulate innovation in AMR diagnostics as a public good and overcome market barriers, the £10 million UK Longitude Prize, the €1 million EU Reducing the misuse of Antibiotics Prize, and the $20 million US Prize for New Rapid, Point-of-Care Diagnostic Tests were launched underpinning the rising importance, policy makers and economists see in AMR diagnostics.
Antimicrobial Resistance and the development and introduction of innovative diagnostics that transform healthcare are huge challenges, which can only be overcome by collaboration across disciplines, countries, healthcare systems and economies. Innovation is also needed in the way we collaborate globally and how the brightest minds can be attracted to the field. That’s why; we created AMR DxC, the international Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostics Challenge competition, to galvanise the next generation of researchers into action. The objectives of AMR DxC are to connect and inspire fresh scientific talent, spark off ideas and create a network for international, interdisciplinary and innovative R&D on AMR diagnostics.
The week of the AMR DxC Summer School was packed with discussions, seminars, lectures, case studies, group work and fun. It culminated with the presentations and judging of AMR DxC pilot proposals on the final day of the workshop, Friday 7th July 2017. There were two teams, which received the AMR DxC Summer School Award. However, ideas from each team were brilliant in their own way and they took home new ideas and knowledge about AMR diagnostics and most importantly new connections.
4th July: An icebreaker
The participants were welcomed and then taken through a general overview of the AMR DxC Summer School agenda by Dr. Till Bachmann, Univ. of Edinburgh.
Mr. Dominic McAllister, British Deputy High Commissioner, Bangalore and Dr. Jagadish Mittur, GoK, introduced the participants to the importance of AMR and the UK-India perspective.
The 27 participants were divided into 5 teams and all the 5 teams were taken through a fun-filled Icebreaker session, led by Dr. Bethany Mills, Univ. of Edinburgh.
A mentor was then assigned to each team. The group of mentors consisted Dr. Till Bachmann – Univ. of Edinburgh, Dr. Taslim Arif Saiyed – CEO & Director, C-CAMP, Dr. Oliver Koch Univ. of Edinburgh, Dr. Bethany Mills Univ. of Edinburgh and Dr. Shridhar Narayanan – Director, FNDR. Dr. Till Bachmann discussed the need for rapid diagnostics in India and helped the participating teams choose the project topics. The participants also engaged in brainstorming and project discussion session with mentors.
5th July: exposure to the depths
On the second day participants were exposed to clinical challenges of AMR DxC perspective at the hospital laboratories, ICUs etc. The participants were taken to St. John’s Hospital at Bangalore where they were taken through a day long discussion and talks by clinicians. They also toured the hospital laboratories. After the welcome address by the Vice Chancellor of the St. John’s Hospital, clinicians spoke on various subjects related to AMR.
AMR DxC related problems were discussed from a hospital and clinical perspective. The deliberations were continued with the doctors and the speakers while taking a tour in the hospital’s Infectious Diseases Unit laboratories and Microbiology laboratories. The participants got an opportunity to talk to the laboratory technicians in the hospital.
6th July: Longitude prize session
The third day was packed with a day long discussion and talks by the subject experts. The day started with catch-up and outline session by Dr. Backmann and with feedback from mentors to their respective teams about their projects. Technical talk sessions by Dr. Bethany Mills on developing technologies to visualise bacteria in humans, by Mr. Anand-Kumar, Bugworks Research India Pvt. Ltd., Prof. S. Ramaswamy, InStem, Dr. Ravi Krishnan, IITD and Dr. Ravi Kumar Banda, Xcyton Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd followed.
The teams discussed the lessons learnt during the day with their mentors and they reflected on their own projects and took a tour of the laboratories and technological facilities of C-Camp.
The evening witnessed a two-hour Longitude Prize (LP) session. Mr. Daniel Berman, Lead, Longitude Prize and his colleague, Ms. Sarah Bailey, introduced the participants to the Discovery Award (DA) of Longitude Prize and their new prize, launched exclusively for the Indian teams. Discovery Award winner 2016, Dr. Shridhar Narayanan, Director, FNDR, shared his journey to become the winner of the award in 2016 and encouraged the participants to follow their dreams through this opportunity.
7th July: Winners await the final judgement
The final day of the Summer School started with the rehearsal sessions of the 5 teams for their final presentation of their projects before the expert panel of judges. All the 5 teams presented their novel idea in the field of AMR DxC before and answered questions posed to them.
The expert panel consisted of
Dr. Bala Subramanian, Bugworks Research India Pvt. Ltd.,
Mr. Anand Anand Kumar, Bugworks Research India Pvt. Ltd., Mr. Daniel Berman, Lead, Longitude Prize,
Dr. Ravi Kumar Banda, Xcyton Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd. and
Dr. T. S. Balganesh, Gangagen Biotechnologies Pvt. Ltd.
Ms.Prachi Sinha, Head of Healthcare Investments, Research and Partnerships, Axilor Ventures
Out of all the well-deserved presentations two winners were announced, they received certificates and were promised funding by Axilor Ventures to take their ideas forward. The rest of them received certificates of participation.
The AMR DxC Summer School India 2017 was first of its kind in India. Given the success of the workshop and benefits received by the participants, we hope to conduct such workshops in future too at C-CAMP. We look forward to organize and experience many more such events in future.