Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The new Longitude Prize aims to tackle resistance and other problems with antibiotics.

CDC/Janice Carr/Deepak Mandhalapu, M.H.S.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The new Longitude Prize aims to tackle resistance and other problems with antibiotics.

How to win £10 million with your research

Martin is a contributing news editor and writer based in Amsterdam

Solving one of the key medical problems of our time could earn you £10 million—and you've got 5 years to do it. The 2014 Longitude Prize, a new British award aimed at stimulating innovation, will go to whomever can "create a cost-effective, accurate, rapid and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will allow health professionals worldwide to administer the right antibiotics at the right time."

The challenge was selected by the British public in a vote from six candidate themes, previously chosen by a panel led by astronomer Martin Rees. The results of the monthlong vote were announced yesterday on the BBC's One Show (video here); the other five candidates were research challenges concerning dementia, paralysis, water, food, and flight.

The prize—one of many such research awards to be announced in recent years—is a modern version of the £20,000 Longitude Prize, offered by the British government for a simple method to determine a ship's longitude at sea in 1714. It was awarded 51 years later to John Harrison for developing his chronometer. Money for the 2014 version comes from the innovation charity Nesta and the government-funded Technology Strategy Board.

The selection is welcome news to scientists working in the field of antibiotics. "Identifying innovative and ground breaking solutions to the problems of antimicrobial resistance are not only needed but are essential," said Nicholas Brown, president of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, in a statement issued today. "The Longitude Prize is a high profile opportunity to ensure the issue of antimicrobial resistance stays high on all agenda—healthcare, public and political.”

Nesta and the Longitude Committee will now finalize the criteria for awarding the money; entries are welcome starting this fall.

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