Expert warns of ‘deepening crisis’ in antimicrobial resistance research

13 May 2024 | Muriel Cozier

A lack of financial incentives has taken big pharma out of the fight, according to life science charity's AMR lead.

A fall-off in R&D and investment is reducing the pool of knowledge in the area of antimicrobial resistance, according to one speaker at the SCI/RSC Symposium on Anti-Infectives in Drug Discovery in London today.

Speaking at the Francis Crick Institute, Dr Clive Mason, programme director (AMR) at LifeArc UK, said; ‘Much of the work on new treatments we are seeing is being done by universities and small companies.’ Mason said this was in part due to the lack of financial incentives, which has led large pharmaceutical companies to leave the market.

Describing the situation as a ‘deepening crisis in antibiotic R&D’, Mason referenced the plight of the biopharmaceutical company Achaogen. Founded in 2002 and backed by funding of $700 million to progress assets to clinical trials, the product Plazomicin reached market during 2018 and was on the WHO’s essential medicines list. But with returns of less than $1 million in its first year, the company folded in 2019.

However, Mason also raised some positive changes. Supporting the development of new treatments, the UK government has instigated a model which pays companies up-front for access to their antibiotic product, based on the product’s value to the NHS, rather than how much is used. Creating fixed payments for antibiotic access rather than paying by the volume sold could remove incentive to over-prescribe.

‘This is a positive development, but AMR is a global problem, and we need to see the support on a global level,’ Mason said.

Last week the UK government unveiled the second part of its national plan to contain and control AMR by 2040.

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