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Historic partnership aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance

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More than 20 biopharmaceutical companies have announced the launch of the AMR Action Fund, a partnership that aims to bring 2-4 new antibiotics to patients by 2030.

These treatments are urgently needed to address the rapid rise of antibiotic-resistant infections – also called antimicrobial resistance, or AMR. Through the Fund, pharmaceutical companies will join forces with philanthropies, development banks, and multilateral organizations to strengthen and accelerate antibiotic development. The Fund will focus on urgent public health needs. It will provide financial resources, as well as technical support to help biotech companies bring novel antibiotics to patients.

“AMR is a slow tsunami that threatens to undo a century of medical progress.”

“AMR is a slow tsunami that threatens to undo a century of medical progress. I very much welcome this new engagement of the private sector in the development of urgently-needed antibacterial treatments,” says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General World Health Organization.

Nearly 1 billion USD

The AMR Action Fund, an initiative of the international body representing the R&D pharmaceutical industry (International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, IFPMA), was announced at simultaneous virtual launch events in Berlin, Germany, and Washington, D.C., USA, with a third event in Tokyo, Japan taking place on July 10.

The companies have raised so far nearly US$1 billion new funding to support clinical research of innovative new antibiotics that are addressing the most resistant bacteria and life-threatening infections.

With this investment from leading biopharmaceutical companies, the AMR Action Fund will be the largest collective venture ever created to address AMR.

By 2050 AMR could claim as many as 10 million lives per year

AMR is a looming global crisis that has the potential to dwarf COVID-19 in terms of deaths and economic costs, states the partnership. While tragically the death toll of COVID-19 continues to rise, each year 700,000 people are dying from AMR. In some of the most alarming scenarios, it is estimated that by 2050 AMR could claim as many as 10 million lives per year.

“Unlike COVID-19, AMR is a predictable and preventable crisis.”

“Unlike COVID-19, AMR is a predictable and preventable crisis. We must act together to rebuild the pipeline and ensure that the most promising and innovative antibiotics make it from the lab to patients,” says Thomas Cueni, Director General of the IFPMA, one of the organizers of the new fund. “The AMR Action Fund is one of the largest and most ambitious collaborative initiatives ever undertaken by the pharmaceutical industry to respond to a global public health threat.”

Support through the most challenging later stages

The world urgently needs new antibiotics, but there are few in the pipeline because of a paradox: despite the huge societal costs of AMR, there is currently no viable market for new antibiotics. New antibiotics are used sparingly to preserve effectiveness, so in recent years, a number of antibiotic-focused biotechs have declared bankruptcy or exited this space due to the lack of commercial sustainability, resulting in the loss of valuable expertise and resources. The consequence is a huge public health need for new antibiotics, but a lack of funding available for antibiotic R&D, particularly the later stages of clinical research. This creates a “valley of death” between discovery and patient access, explains the partnership.

“The AMR Action Fund will support innovative antibiotic candidates through the most challenging later stages of drug development, ultimately providing governments time to make the necessary policy reforms to enable a sustainable antibiotic pipeline,” says David Ricks, Chairman and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company and President of IFPMA.

The AMR Action fund’s actions

The AMR Action Fund will invest in smaller biotech companies focused on developing innovative antibacterial treatments that address the highest priority public health needs, make a significant difference in clinical practice, and save lives. It will also provide technical support to portfolio companies, giving them access to the deep expertise and resources of large biopharmaceutical companies, to strengthen antibiotic development, and support access and appropriate use of antibiotics.

In addition it will bring together a broad alliance of industry and non-industry stakeholders, including philanthropies, development banks, and multilateral organizations, and help encourage governments to create market conditions that enable sustainable investment in the antibiotic pipeline.

The AMR Action Fund expects to invest more than US$1 billion with the support of future partners into a portfolio of companies to address the funding gap for the financing of antibiotic development. The Fund is expected to be operational during the fourth quarter of 2020.

Companies and foundations supporting the AMR Action Fund

Almirall, Amgen, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Chugai, Daiichi Sankyo, Eisai, Eli Lilly and Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, LEO Pharma, Lundbeck, Menarini, Merck, MSD, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Novo Nordisk Foundation, Pfizer, Roche, Shionogi, Takeda, Teva, UCB

The concept of the AMR Action Fund was developed by the IFPMA and the Biopharmaceutical CEOs Roundtable (BCR), and biopharmaceutical companies and foundation, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), The European Investment Bank (EIB), and the Wellcome Trust.

Sweden should step up its AMR efforts

Anders Blanck, Administrative Director of LIF, the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Sweden, believes that Sweden should step up its AMR efforts even more in the future and take more responsibility.

“We need to invest in infrastructure for the development of antibiotics, facilitate clinical trials for antibiotics and lead the way by initiating a new replacement model,”  he says. “There are opportunities to create an ecosystem here in Sweden where global companies cooperate to bring development all the way to the patients.”

Photo: iStock