Expert insight

Progress in tackling antimicrobial resistance

28 April 2023
  • James Anderson Executive Director, Global Health

Since antibiotics were discovered nearly a century ago, the rate of resistance growth is outpacing the rate at which new ones can be developed and be used against infections. If we lose this race, patient deaths will significantly increase from the current 1.2 million per year.

The pharmaceutical industry recognized the impending crisis and set up the AMR Action Fund to help accelerate innovation in the antibiotic pipeline. The aim of the Fund is to help bring two to four new antibiotics to patients within the next decade, investing up to $1 billion in companies that are developing tools to tackle priority pathogens.

Since launching in 2021, the AMR Action Fund has made significant progress toward its goals, with two new investments announced this week: firstly, in a late-stage company working on a candidate against C. difficile, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified as an “urgent threat.” The second announcement is in a company developing a diagnostics platform that will enable doctors to quickly and accurately identify the type of infection a patient has and determine which antibiotic is likely to work best. By providing a more targeted approach to treatment, the diagnostic platform has the potential to improve patient outcomes and reduce the risk of AMR. These investments bolster the Fund’s portfolio of innovative companies and broaden the pipeline of novel antibiotics, phage therapies, and diagnostics moving through development.

This is welcome news. But survival of the R&D ecosystem is threatened, with small companies struggling to stay afloat, so we continue to urge governments and international organizations to drive the economic and policy reforms needed to fix the broken market to tackle AMR. These reforms are needed to attract increased private investment, sustain the resource-intensive R&D into new antibiotics, and ensure that the companies involved can be successful.

With the focus shifting to the upcoming UN high-level meeting on AMR in 2024, there’s an expectation for world leaders to enact meaningful reforms in their respective healthcare systems. With the reintroduction of the PASTEUR Act in the US, the successful ‘Netflix’ pilots in the UK and upcoming action in Japan and the EU, this momentum must be converted to deliver the needed changes, and thereby make sure the world has antibiotics for the next century as well.