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Public-private alliance to discover new antibiotics

Published on 25/05/12 at 09:46am
Richard Bergstrom
EFPIA's Richard Bergström: knowledge and resources must be pooled


A Europe-wide public-private partnership is to put €224m (£180m) into finding new antibiotics for all manner of bacterial infections such as MRSA.

The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is behind the scheme, which involves GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Sanofi and Basilea Pharmaceutica.

The pharma and biotech companies will together provide contributions in kind worth €115 million while IMI is putting €109 million cash into this war on superbugs.

European pharma’s representative body EFPIA welcomed the move, which is part of the European Commission’s Action Plan against the rising threats from Antimicrobial Resistance, launched last November.

Advances such as chemotherapy and organ transplants depend on effective antibiotics but there are fears that antimicrobial resistance is rising and the pipeline for dealing with their threats has all but dried up.

Research into bacteria resistant to existing drugs has diminished over the past 15 years due to the scientific difficulties of the work, regulatory complexity and a lack of the commercial incentives to fund future R&D.

“Bacteria develop resistance as fast, or faster, than we can develop treatments and a combination of scientific, regulatory, and financial challenges have impeded new antibiotic development,” said Martin Mackay, AstraZeneca’s president of R&D.

Information sharing is a key part of the newly-announced programme, with a new hub to allow data exchange in a bid to gain improved understanding of the science involved. 

A clinical trial network will also be established to evaluate antibiotics currently in development, in a bid to minimise duplication of effort and reduce inefficiencies in future R&D.

“Our researchers and the scientific community has realised that we can only deal with this urgent threat by working together and pooling our knowledge,” explained EFPIA director general Richard Bergström.

“IMI is perfectly suited for such open innovation. And by co-funding clinical trials, policy makers in Europe have created a strong incentive for companies and investors to come back to this field of research,” he added.

GSK and AstraZeneca, which both have existing drugs which may be helped by the scheme, welcomed the launch.

GSK’s phase II investigational antibiotic GSK1322322, which targets multi-drug resistant respiratory and skin infections including MRSA, will be included in the research programme.

“The rise of infections such as MRSA is well known, but today marks a chance to reverse the threat,” said Patrick Vallance, president, pharmaceuticals R&D at GSK. “This announcement signals a new model of collaboration and a willingness to change and adapt to seek different solutions.” 

AstraZeneca has two investigational products that may join GSK1322322 in the research, depending on ongoing results.

They are MEDI4893, a monoclonal antibody that targets a toxin released by Staphylococcus aureus and AZD9773, an investigational treatment for severe sepsis and septic shock, conditions triggered by uncontrolled bacterial infection.

“The steady rise of drug-resistant bacteria is an imminent and urgent threat to public health, and without a reliable arsenal of effective antibiotics, modern medical care is not possible,” Mackay concluded.

Further projects with additional funding are expected to start later this year.

Adam Hill


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