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Antimicrobial resistance

O'Neill accuses British government of losing focus on AMR

Lord Jim O’Neill said he hopes the government rediscovers its passion for championing initiatives that put Britain in a leading role on antimicrobial resistance.

The author of a landmark report on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has accused the UK government of losing focus on the challenge over the past 18 months.

Lord Jim O’Neill, who chaired the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, which was published in May 2016, voiced his concerns when he formally opened the new AMR Centre in Alderley Park, Cheshire on 23 November. 

He said: “The UK government has played a mammoth role in getting the ball rolling on antimicrobial resistance all over the world but since the review, some of the intensity of focus has been lost.

“I hope the government rediscovers the passion for championing the AMR Centre and other initiatives that place Britain in a leading role on this issue.” 

The AMR Centre’s remit

The AMR Centre, established in May 2016, is a joint public-private initiative to support and accelerate the development of new antibiotics and diagnostics through a fully integrated development capability, offering translational R&D through to clinical proof of concept.

The initiative features a partnering model with small and medium-sized enterprises to enable speedy progression of research through to clinical trial so that treatments can be brought to patients as quickly as possible. 

Dr Peter Jackson, executive director of the centre, told delegates that the number of scientists researching new antibiotic drugs in the UK is at a record low, with fewer than 100 researchers in industry.

Cases of antibiotic-resistant infections have been rising steeply over the past 15 years, with most E. coli infections now resistant to penicillins. 

Dr Jackson said unless action was taken now, many more lives would be claimed than the 50,000 in Europe and the US, and the 700,000 lives across the world, currently lost each year “because we’re running out of effective antibiotics”. 

He said the centre “is part of the response to the crisis and will help plug the gap that has been proven to exist over the last 30 years in terms of funding, expertise and collaboration. We are now very much up and running, with three programmes in our laboratories and more to follow”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20204031

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