The AMR Centre, based at Alderley Park, Cheshire, is to become a lead player in the world’s largest public-private partnership focused on the grave public health threat posed by antibiotic resistance. CARB-X — Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator — is a new organization that will rejuvenate the pipeline of antimicrobial drugs and diagnostics.

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Within Europe, antibiotic resistance already claims 25,000 lives a year, but fatality rates are expected to rise dramatically. A recent review for the UK government, led by leading economist Lord O’Neill, concluded that AMR has the potential to be responsible for 10 million extra deaths each year by 2050 – more than currently claimed by cancer – and reverse decades of advances in medicine.

The new partnership has grown out of President Obama’s 2015 Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB) initiative. CARB-X will co-ordinate R&D funding of at least $350 million around the world during the next 5 years, allowing the partnership to deploy significant resources to address the unique set of scientific and commercial challenges that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) creates.

The AMR Centre, a public-private partnership which was itself only established in February this year, as a UK centre of research excellence is one of five organizations that will play a central role in the new partnership, which was announced this week by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The biggest funder is the US-based Biomedical Advanced Research Authority (BARDA). It will provide $30 million in grants to CARB-X during the first year — and up to $250 million during the next 5 years. The AMR Centre is expected to receive up to $14 million in matched funding from CARB-X in year one — and $100 million in total during the next 5 years.

The combination of its own resources and the contributions from CARB-X means that the AMR centre expects to be able to direct $200 million on a range of R&D projects. These financial resources will be used to help small and medium sized businesses progress their R&D projects into clinical trials. The Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation focused on biomedical research, will also contribute funding, along with its expertise in overseeing projects of this kind.

“The creation of CARB-X is one of the most important steps yet in terms of rethinking how we deal with AMR and the partnership will have an impact around the world,” said Dr Peter Jackson, steering group chairman of the AMR Centre. “We share the same goal of accelerating a new pipeline of treatments and diagnostics by working on new drug development programmes. We will do this in our own labs as well as in collaboration with other organizations, in particular providing support to small and medium-sized businesses and research institutes which have exciting new approaches to AMR.”

Chris Oglesby, Chairman of Manchester Science Partnerships (MSP), said: “CARB-X is setting out a bold vision to protect humanity from the most serious bacterial threats by accelerating antibacterial product development. Its geographical scope is unlimited and the brief simply to fund the best science for the most innovative products, wherever they may be found. Some of that work will undoubtedly happen here.”

“The North of England has always been a place of innovation and discovery. More than 20 new drugs have been developed at our Alderley Park campus, including new antibiotics. Some CARB-X projects will be developed at Alderley Park within the AMR Centre but the funding could also benefit other companies and organisations both inside and outside of our organization. There is strong capability in terms of people and laboratory resource in our region. CARB-X itself has already spoken of collaboration, innovation and urgency as some of its key valves. These are principles that we share at MSP — and we wish the new venture every success in delivering on its important objectives,” he added.

The international partnership will support a suite of products through early preclinical development to a stage where they can be taken forward by private or public investment. Led by executive director and principal investigator Kevin Outterson, Professor of Law at Boston University, the CARB-X partners will pool their comprehensive scientific, technical, business and legal expertise to help supported companies navigate the maze of regulatory steps, studies and data collection required for new drugs and other products to gain approval by US and/or European regulators.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: “Drug-resistant infections are already costing lives all over the world. Many drugs that we have too often taken for granted no longer work, presenting one of the biggest threats to our future global health and economic security. A problem of this scale can only be tackled through co-ordinated international effort to curb our massive overuse of existing antibiotics, and to accelerate the development of new ones. I hope our new transatlantic partnership marks the beginning of a wider global effort to prevent untreatable bacterial infections from claiming millions of lives.”