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New fund to tackle drug deaths across the UK

People at risk of drug deaths could be saved by overdose detecting artificial intelligence or antidote dispensing drones after the government awarded a share of £5 million to projects aimed at tackling fatal overdoses

As part of the Reducing Drug Deaths Innovation Challenge which aims to reduce drug related deaths across the UK, Office for Life Sciences is investing in 12 promising projects to develop technologies aimed at improving detection, response, or intervention in potential drug related deaths.

‘Drug use has a devastating impact on people’s health, their families and their livelihoods and every year over 4000 people in the UK die from an avoidable drug overdose,’ said Minister of State for Health Will Quince.

‘We want to stop people taking these substances and support them to recover from their addictions, while preventing those most at risk from dying from overdoses. This fund forms part of our healthcare mission programme as we take a Vaccine Taskforce style approach to some of the biggest challenges facing our society today, backed by over £200 million.’

The winning projects will operate across all four nations of the UK and range from AI technologies to detect overdoses, to emergency systems using drone technology to deliver antidotes, and wearable technologies such as smart watches or breathing monitors to detect overdoses and alert healthcare professionals, family, or members of the community to the need to intervene.

‘Every single death from drug misuse is a tragedy, which has an awful impact on that person’s loved ones and community - and thousands every year are avoidable with better detection and faster intervention,’ said Science, Innovation and Technology Minister, George Freeman.

‘The UK is already a world leader in much of the work this £5 million Challenge will support – from our £94 billion life science sector through to our AI industry which supports 50,000 jobs, backed by our record £20 billion for R&D.’