£30m initiative will support early-stage antimicrobial development

Petri dish used for bacterial research

A partnership has been set up to promote the development of new treatments to tackle the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Innovate UK, LifeArc, and Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) have joined forces to create PACE (Pathways to Antimicrobial Clinical Efficacy), a £30 ($36) million initiative supporting early-stage innovation against AMR.

PACE will select, invest in and support projects that address the world’s most threatening pathogens. The initiative is calling for applications for funding, with up to £10 ($12) million available to support companies developing new antimicrobials.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, UK Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance, said: “I firmly believe that the development of new effective, affordable and equitably accessible antibiotics and rapid diagnostics is not just a medical necessity but a global imperative. I am delighted that through PACE, Medicines Discovery Catapult, Life Arc and Innovate UK will give our science community greater ability to break down the technical, financial and regulatory barriers that have prevented the breakthroughs that our modern medical systems rely on.”

The threat of antibiotic resistance

AMR is one of the top ten global health threats as defined by the World Health Organization. By 2050, as many as ten million people could die each year as a result of AMR. The economic impact is also vast. The World Bank predicts that from 2015 to 2050, the cost of AMR will be $3.5 billion per year on healthcare alone.

Bacteria and other microbes are evolving to become resistant to treatment, driven in large part by our overuse of antibiotics. Half of the antibiotics prescribed today were discovered in the 1950s, with only one new class discovered since the 1980s.

Until recently many large pharmaceutical companies had stopped antibiotic research as the returns on investment were too low and regulatory requirements too stringent.

A report by the Centre for Superbug Solutions at the University of Queensland (UQ) researchers has warned a global crisis of antibiotic resistance is inevitable, despite there being 62 new antibiotics in development.

Christopher Reid, Professor of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Bryant University, in Rhode Island, US, told DDW: “To address AMR we need a broad-based approach to drug development, that encompasses re-invigorating existing antibiotics that have significant resistance issues through combination therapies that inactivate the resistance mechanism, new chemical entities targeting previously untapped cellular pathways in the pathogen, and non-traditional approaches such as bacteriophage and immunomodulating agents.”

AMR innovators worldwide are encouraged to apply for PACE funding by 24 November, with projects expected to last up to two years, with total funding of up to £1 ($1.2) million available per project.

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, Drug Discovery World

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