Discovery Award Winners

Technion Team Wins Discovery Award as Part of Nesta’s £10 Million Longitude Prize

Team Prismatix – a collaboration between Prof. Ester Segal’s research group at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Department of Biotechnology and Food Engineering and clinicians from the Bnai Zion Medical Center – has been awarded with the Discovery Award for their promising developments in rapid diagnostics for antimicrobial resistance.

Team Prismatix: Prof. Ester Segal, Heidi Leonard and Liran Holtzman from the Department of Biotechnology and Food Engineering at the Technion (upper panel, left to right). Prof. Leigh Canham from the University of Birmingham, Prof. Ofer Nativ and Prof. Sarel Halachmi from the Department of Urology at Bnai Zion Medical Center.

Team Prismatix developed a technology that provides a determination of antibiotic resistance in less than three hours. Using minimal volumes, bacteria are grown on small photonic silicon chips. Technion Ph.D. student Heidi Leonard, who leads the research effort, explains that “By measuring how light reflects off the surface of these “bio-chips”, we can determine whether bacteria are growing or dying in the presence of certain antibiotics and specific antibiotic concentrations. Importantly, our results are in excellent agreement with existing laboratory techniques.” The preliminary findings and concepts were recently published in the prestigious journal ACS Nano (“Unraveling Antimicrobial Susceptibility of Bacterial Networks on Micropillar Architectures Using Intrinsic Phase-Shift Spectroscopy.” ACS Nano, 2017, 11 (6), 6167-6177).

In Europe alone, it is estimated that more than four million people per year acquire hospital-associated infections. Determining the correct antibiotic for an infection in a timely manner is critical for both a patient and to prevent the spread of antimicrobial resistance; however, a typical laboratory workup procedure requires 24 hours to confirm the presence of bacteria, and another 24–36 hours to identify the correct antibiotic to use. In total, the routine hospital lab time can take 1–3 days, during which time incorrect antibiotics may be administered, which can facilitate the growth of resistant strains. It is estimated that by the year 2050, antimicrobial resistance will be the cause of 10 million deaths per year worldwide, surpassing cancer to become the leading cause of death.

In addition to Heidi Leonard, Team Prismatix is comprised of Liran Holtzman, a graduate of the Technion Department of Biotechnology and Food Engineering; Prof. Ofer Nativ, chairman of the Department of Urology at Bnai Zion Medical Center; Prof. Sarel Halachmi, vice chairman of the Department of Urology at Bnai Zion Medical Center; Prof. Ester Segal, professor in Biotechnology and Food Engineering at the Technion; and Prof. Leigh Canham, a UK representative from the University of Birmingham.