Opening the conference on Wednesday at the Wellcome Trust’s headquarters in the heart of London, Sir Anthony Coates (University of London, UK) described bacteria as our oldest enemy. Since the golden age of antibiotic discovery, back in the mid-1900s, we have grown complacent of this enemy, while in the meantime it has learned how to thwart our best tactics Now, with the launch of Antibiotic Discovery Global, the fight back can begin (again).
Antibiotic Discovery Global represents the first global network of antibiotic discovery experts, set up to tackle the looming threat of antibiotic resistance by bringing together scientists from industry and academia and through providing the support and infrastructure they will require. Sir Anthony said of the coalition “We hope Antibiotic Discovery Global will provide the much-needed catalyst through which the antibiotic discovery market can be regenerated.”MedChemNet was at the launch and here we bring you 5 lessons from a stimulating afternoon of discussion.
The need is dire
Jim O’Neill, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (UK), spoke about his recent report into the extent of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) around the globe . According to the results of the investigation, 10 million people may die every year by 2050 because of AMR, at a total cost to the world’s economy of $100 trillion. It was emphasized that pipelines of antimicrobial drugs are essentially bare especially for big pharma.
Governments are beginning to take the situation seriously, with the UK recently recognizing AMR as a potential civil emergency in the National Risk Register. So with all parties agreeing that there is a huge problem, what can be done?
There are some ‘quick wins’
The quick wins that Jim O’Neill and others highlighted are cultural changes which can be effected to reduce the rise of AMR. Hand washing, a reduction in the prescription of antibiotics for viral infections and the cessation of using antibiotics in animal feed could all help combat the rise of resistance. As there will be a lag in the creation of new therapies, policies could be enacted to reinforce these behaviors now.
On the medicinal chemistry front, since the discovery of new drugs takes over a decade, Lloyd Czaplewski (Chemical Biology Ventures Ltd., UK) and others suggested that drug repurposing and using known targets/ scaffolds could provide the fastest return and help plug the gap in the meantime..
A global fund will go a long way to help
There isn’t as much money in infectious disease research as there is for areas like cancer. It is difficult to even fund the PhDs and fellowships required to carry out the research needed to discover the next wave of antibiotics.
In line with O’Neill’s review on AMR, the creation of a $2 billion research fund would be able to attract the top talent to the field and begin the rebuilding of a global research infrastructure in antibiotics. The aim of the fund is to have it at least partially funded by big pharma and the money will be directed towards small biotech and universities.
A real solution will require IP reform
Many of the conversations at the meeting were revolving around the need for novel intellectual property paradigms. Currently pharma companies’ reimbursement on their creation of a new drug depends on its widespread usage. In antibiotics, widespread usage is part of the problem. A new way of rewarding companies for their innovation without creating perverse incentives is needed.
It could also be the case that creating extended periods of exclusivity, such as is the case with orphan drugs, could provide enough of a reward to encourage big pharma to tackle antibiotics development.
Only international solutions are real solutions
Bacteria don’t have borders and as such, the AMR threat is a global problem. According to O’Neill’s report the places hardest hit by antimicrobial resistance is the poorer, developing nations. Ensuring that these nations have the local clinical and research infrastructure will allow for not just better treatment, but also reduce the costs for clinical trials of new therapies.
 Review on Antimicrobial Resistance: http://amr-review.org/sites/default/files/AMR%20Review%20Paper%20-%20Tackling%20a%20crisis%20for%20the%20health%20and%20wealth%20of%20nations_1.pdf