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Pharma partners with IMI to combat antibiotic resistance

GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Sanofi and Basilea Pharmaceutica all contribute to research efforts

The EU's Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is to team up with five major pharma companies to lead research into overcoming increasing resistance to antibiotics.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), AstraZeneca (AZ), Janssen, Sanofi and Basilea Pharmaceutica have all contributed to a €223.7m programme that will see industry, academia and the EU combine to develop new antibiotics treatments to replace those that are now no longer effective in a wider population.

According to the IMI, a public-private healthcare partnership between the EU and members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), such a programme is essential as there is no longer a financial incentive for pharma companies to manufacture antibiotics themselves as the development cost is too high compared to the return on investment.

It said: “If this situation continues with no intervention, we risk leaving society in a situation where prescribers will have few, if any, therapeutic options to treat bacterial infections. To avoid a real public health challenge it is essential that action be taken now.”

The programme, which is part of the European Commission's Action Plan against the rising threats from Antimicrobial Resistance, will include research into understanding antibiotic resistance and will also look at how to design and implement efficient clinical trials with the aim of taking novel drug candidates through clinical development.

Candidates already in development as part of the programme include GSK's GSK1322322, which targets drug resistant respiratory and skin infections including MRSA and is in phase II development.

it will be joined by two prospective candidates from AZ, MEDI4893 and AZD9773, which are in early investigation to target Staphylococcus aureus and severe sepsis due to bacterial infection respectively.

Knowledge sharing will also be featured in the programme, including the launch of an 'information hub'. This would allow data to be shared across the wider antibiotic research community to enable researchers to learn from both success and failures and minimise duplication.

As part of this, a clinical trial network will be established to evaluate antibiotics currently in development.

In addition, research will also aim to find more approaches to the design of antibiotics that could be effective against Gram negative bacteria, a strain of bacteria that has been notoriously difficult to develop treatments for.

European commissioner for research, innovation and science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest health challenges we face. It puts lives at risk and severely disrupts hospital services. The research from this initiative will result in much-needed new antimicrobials and improve our arsenal in the fight against dangerous superbugs.”

Richard Bergström, director general of EFPIA commented on the importance of collaboration in such research: “Our researchers and the scientific community has realised that we can only deal with this urgent threat by working together and pooling our knowledge.

“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.”

24th May 2012

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