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Innovate4AMR now in second year

Innovate for a world free from the fear of untreatable infections.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest global health threats of the 21st century that hinders progress to achieve the United Nation's Sustainable Developmental Goal 3 of good health and well-being. AMR complicates effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections that are no longer susceptible to common antimicrobial medications today.

By 2050, 10 million lives could be lost due to the growing worldwide threat of AMR. Patient non-compliance greatly contributes to antimicrobial resistance in developing countries, with some patients who miss doses either by mistake or deliberately, especially in cases where signs and symptoms begin to subside. As a result, bacteria are able to replicate under reduced drug pressure, leading to spread of resistance. This leads to treatment failures, increasing burden of disease in patients, which may inevitably result in death.

It is therefore imperative that innovative and novel solutions be invented and implemented to reduce the impact of this global health concern. That is why ReAct-Action on Antibiotic Resistance, International Federation for Medical Students' Association, the World Health Organization, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the South Centre have joined forces to organise Innovate4AMR for the second time, following last year's first global innovation challenge in solving antimicrobial resistance.

The aim of Innovate4AMR is to bring together students' minds to invent ideas to tackle AMR and engage with scientific experts from various fields, including public health, infectious diseases and epidemiology, behavioural scientists and communication experts to further refine their proposal and assess how best they could implement their solution into the contexts from which they stem. Students can participate in a capacity-building workshop during World Antibiotic Awareness Week. The workshop takes place in Geneva, Switzerland.

In its second year, Innovate4AMR has gained widespread interest from both students and professionals working in the field. The organisers called for student teams from all around the world for their solutions on antimicrobial stewardship in resource-limited settings, with a video from World Health Organization's Assistant Director General, Dr Hanan Balkhy, also encouraging students to apply.

"Since Innovate4AMR's inception at last year's World Antibiotic Awareness Week workshop, I have strongly advocated that students bring their fresh perspective to drive action on antimicrobial resistance. Innovative solutions are what we need. Beyond this workshop, I hope to see these winning teams implementing their projects across the world and changing how we approach AMR globally," said Dr Marc Sprenger, Director of Surveillance, Prevention and Control, WHO's AMR Division.

With more than 1 250 young health advocates signed up for the competition, Innovate4AMR received 163 submissions from teams coming from 40 countries. After several rounds of judging, first by an IFMSA-ReAct-WHO Technical Review Panel and then by a panel of international expert judges.

The following 10 winning teams were selected to participate at the capacity-building workshop in Geneva, supported by the World Health Organization and South Centre:

1) amRx (Hong Kong)2) Batibot (The Philippines)3) Blue Eagles (The Philippines)4) C^2 (Australia)5) PharmLinks (Tanzania)6) AS (Indonesia)7) pill-Alert (South Africa)8) SAVE - System for Antibiotic Vigilance and Equity (India, Sri Lanka, China)9) SNARE (Indonesia)10) The "ART-IPA" Initative (Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France)

Team pill-Alert comprises two ambitious individuals who have a passion for global health advocacy. They are intent on tackling AMR by implementing their strategic intervention, which ensures that patients comply with treatment. They have designed an innovative approach using cellphone-based technology to send automated alerts/reminders via text messages (SMS) to patients to take their medication on time. This mobile health (mHealth) intervention seeks to improve patient compliance to treatment, thereby significantly reducing AMR.

To date there has been no technological intervention that specifically addresses poor patient compliance to antimicrobials. Furthermore, their intervention is aligned to the third resolution of the United Nations High Level Meeting on AMR, convened on 21 September 2016 in New York, which recommends all member-states to "invest in ambitious research and development for new technologies to combat antimicrobial resistance".

This mobile health solution is patient-specific, as patients will receive these reminders at specific time-points with instructions on how to take their medication, as per their prescription.

They aim to integrate and implement their intervention in low and middle income countries with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. The dynamic duo intends to foster partnerships with the South African National Department of Health, Department of Science, Innovation and Technology in collaboration with the World Health Organization, ReAct Africa and many other stakeholders to implement their solution.

"Antimicrobial resistance is indeed a major health concern that has plagued the lives of millions worldwide, thus it is imperative that we as the young scientific community engage with senior-most experts to discuss innovative strategies and unique approaches to tackle antimicrobial resistance," said Mohamed Hoosen Suleman, a recent UKZN Pharmacy summa cum laude graduate and a current first-year medical student.

"Innovative, feasible and sustainable solutions with the mindset of 'think global, act local' are essential to combat AMR and prevent an era of superbugs in resource-limited settings such as sub-Saharan Africa. Robust engagement is needed among health-care professionals to share ideas that seeks to achieve a common vision," said Kapil Narain, a fifth-year medical student.

Students from these teams had the opportunity to present their proposals at the capacity-building workshop during World Antibiotic Awareness Week to an expert review panel, including Karen Mah, Elizabeth Long, Kwame Boaitley, Dr Stephen Nurse-Findlay, Dr Barbara Tornimbene and Anand Balachandran.

"As medical students and future healthcare providers, IFMSA is extremely concerned about AMR, and considers it as one of its main global priorities. Today with Innovate4AMR we aim to give the chance to youth to step up and bring their ideas and solutions to the world, to empower and assist them with tools, knowledge and expertise so that they can create and apply innovative solutions in their countries and be today's AMR champions and change-makers," said Saad Uakkas, Liaison Officer to Student Organizations of the International Federation of Medical Students' Associations.

During the event, students have attended seminars and workshops on AMR, discussed with experts how to make strategic improvements to their innovation, and receive feedback on how best to operationalise their project. The aim is that after returning to their home countries, the teams will be equipped with the knowledge to implement their projects.

"We hope to motivate, engage and enlist the next generation of leaders in healthcare to develop innovative, scalable approaches that address antimicrobial resistance and equitable access to antimicrobials," said Anthony So, MD, MPA, Director, ReAct Strategic Policy Program and IDEA (Innovation+Design Enabling Access) Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For more information about Innovate4AMR, visit Innovate4AMR.org or please contact Prateek Sharma (ReAct and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) at: [email protected]

Team pill-Alert

Kapil Narain (South Africa) - [email protected] (+27 61 748 2713)Mohamed Hoosen Suleman (South Africa) - [email protected] (+27 78 227 8661)

Innovate4AMR was organised by:

International Federation of Medical Students' Associations (IFMSA)

ReAct-Action on Antibiotic Resistance

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and

The South Centre with support from the World Health Organization - http://www.who.int/