Global cash plea to fight superbugs


Published: Thursday 5th February 2015 by The News Editor

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An international fighting fund is needed to support urgently needed research into new ways of tackling superbugs, according to the latest report from a review of antimicrobial resistance ordered by David Cameron.

The recommendation is one of several made by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill, who was commissioned by the Prime Minister last year.

In his second report he outlines specific steps that could be taken to curb the rise of drug-resistant infections worldwide.

Mr O’Neill, who chairs the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), said: “I am calling on international funders, philanthropic or governmental, to allocate money to a fund that can support blue sky science and incubate ideas that are more mature.”

Other recommendations include looking at new doses or combinations of existing drugs, and improving diagnostics to reduce unnecessary prescribing.

The report also calls for greater investment in training the next generation of scientists, economists and vets, and more effective tracking of the spread of resistance.

In December the first report outlining the scale of the problem said unless action is taken, resistant bugs could be claiming at least an extra 10 million lives a year by 2050 – more than the number of people who currently die from cancer.

A targeted international fund would back the research needed to develop new drugs, alternatives to antibiotics, and testing technology, said Mr O’Neill.

It could also help to reverse the “brain drain” into research areas that are currently more lucrative and prestigious, such as cancer, diabetes and dementia.

Lack of funding prevented innovative ideas being turned into practical solutions, and deterred up-and-coming doctors and scientists.

“In researching our latest report, we found no shortage of ideas and promising new technologies but progress is too slow due to lack of investment and much of the workforce is edging towards retirement,” says Mr O’Neill.

“New drugs take 10 to 15 years to come onto market, so the time for action is now.”

Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said: ” The review’s recommendations for action are steps that governments, funders and the research community can start acting on immediately, but there are also steps that we can take as individuals.

“The Review recommends establishing actual or virtual centres of excellence in research. As well as developing new drugs and alternative approaches to antimicrobials, making the most of existing ones, and improving surveillance of resistant infections, these centres need to investigate the social context and behaviours that contribute to the problem and how we might learn to modify these factors.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said: ” We recognise the global scale of the problem of antimicrobial resistance and this is a clear call to action for business and science leaders to make AMR research both appealing and viable.

“This is the dawn of an exciting new age of discovery and use in antimicrobial treatments and I hope that other Governments around the world will also respond to this challenge in order to save millions of lives and millions of pounds in years to come.”

Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, said: “Picture a world where a cut finger could kill you. You don’t have to look far. Only 100 years ago, a quarter of all deaths were due to bacterial infections. We know there’s no magic bullet to the AMR problem.

“Tackling the issue will depend heavily on research that is connected, multidisciplinary and that takes global perspective. As the O’Neill review suggests, real change needs proper global investment.

“What we do know is that the UK model on AMR research is an exemplar of how to bring researchers from all disciplines and backgrounds together. We have the expertise, experience and the imperative. We need to act now.”

Published: Thursday 5th February 2015 by The News Editor

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