U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, along with the U.K. Department of Health, has commissioned a wide reaching independent review, led by economist Jim O’Neill and co-funded and hosted by medical research foundation the Wellcome Trust, to explore the economic issues surrounding antimicrobial resistance. Growing numbers of bacterial and viral infections are resistant to antimicrobial drugs, but no new classes of antibiotics have come on the market for more than 25 years.
Around 25,000 people die each year from infections resistant to antibiotic drugs in Europe alone, and the lack of new drugs capable of fighting bacteria has been described by the World Health Organization as one of the most significant global risks facing modern medicine.
The review will set out a plan for encouraging and accelerating the discovery and development of new generations of antibiotics and will examine:
O’Neill will work independently of government and will have full freedom to approach the issues and the evidence as he sees fit. He will work with international experts covering all aspects of the AMR pipeline and associated economic issues to identify a range of proposals to form the basis of a new, strengthened global effort.
The announcement comes a week after antimicrobial resistance was chosen by the public as the winner of the $13.6 million Longitude Prize, with a focus on creating a cheap, accurate and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will allow doctors and nurses to better target antibiotics and prevent over-use.
Professor Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said, “The soaring number of antibiotic-resistant infections poses such a great threat to society that in 20 years’ time we could be taken back to a 19th century environment where everyday infections kill us as a result of routine operations.”
She continued, “We have reached a critical point and must now act on a global scale to slow down antimicrobial resistance. The biotech and pharmaceutical industry will be central to resolving this crisis, which will impact on all areas of modern medicine.”
Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, said, “The review will present its initial findings during 2015 with a final report and recommendations to then follow during 2016. This process will run alongside—and engage closely with—the WHO’s development of a Global Action Plan on AMR.”