New UK initiatives take on deadly antimicrobial resistance

Bacteria in Petri dishes

Two new UK funding initiatives will support the development of new antimicrobials and novel technology solutions to tackle infection transmission as part of an overall focus on antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

In the first of these, PACE (Pathways to Antimicrobial Clinical Efficacy) has agreed a partnership with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to support innovators developing new antimicrobials.

PACE was founded in 2023 by LifeArc, Medicines Discovery Catapult, and Innovate UK, with a £30 million programme of funding and support to be deployed over five years.

PACE is focused on removing barriers and connecting the AMR research and development (R&D) ecosystem to accelerate and strengthen the pre-clinical pipeline.

Its first funding call was launched in October 2023 with up to £10 million available to support innovators developing new treatments for the most threatening microbes and resistance mechanisms.

Successful projects will have access to UKHSA facilities to test panels of clinical strains of bacteria with the support of world-renowned expertise. These panels will be expanded to provide additional bacterial strains which represent the problems faced by clinicians in the UK and internationally.

In 2019, the UK government published a five-year national action plan which supports the UK 20-year vision for antimicrobial resistance.

Professor Mark Sutton, a Scientific Leader at UKHSA and a Professor for Antimicrobial Therapy, said: “We’re excited to support some really encouraging new antimicrobial candidates and look forward to achieving breakthroughs together that will go on to benefit our national and global health security.”

Dr Clive Mason, PACE Programme Director, said: “This collaboration will not only deliver on the UK government’s immediate requirements set out in its national action plan; the insights we gain will provide further opportunities for future projects as the world looks to new AMR discoveries, ultimately contributing to better patient outcomes on a global scale.”

Accelerating new approaches to infection transmission

The Infection Innovation Consortium: iiCON, a consortium led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, has been appointed by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to deliver a complementary new project.

The consortium will bring together and support the formation of diverse cross-disciplinary networks to propel the development of new concepts and solutions that leverage disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), digital and automation, advanced humanised infection models, and novel diagnostics to combat the spread of infection.

Companies and groups will have the opportunity to apply to take part in two ‘sandpit’ events held in Liverpool on 14 March and London on 9 May.

The sandpits will look to pump-prime radical new approaches to tackling infections by engaging new communities and capabilities with the challenge.

The programme is supported with £1.5 ($1.9) million funding from UKRI. The sandpits will shape the call for funding pots of £50,000 to £150,000 to test disruptive approaches to tackling infections. Network support grants of up to £50,000 will also be available.

The development of new antibiotics and companion diagnostics are covered by the PACE initiative.

Professor Janet Hemingway, founding director of iiCON, said: “Combatting the transmission of infection is one of the key health challenges of our time, and one that is growing in urgency. We hope this exciting programme will spark the formation of new cross-disciplinary networks and support participants to shape the future direction of our response to infection transmission – bringing forward novel concepts and approaches that may hold the key to unlocking this critical issue.”

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, DDW

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