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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Situation Critical

In February 2017, the Boston Consulting Group published Breaking Through the Wall – a report calling for concerted action on antibiotics R&D and the creation of a global union for antibiotics R&D. One of its most shocking statistics was the number of scientists on the ground working globally in antibiotics research – less than 500 in the industry worldwide. Since the report came out, further job reductions have been announced, and fewer than 100 antimicrobial resistance (AMR) researchers are now estimated to remain in the UK industry. This figure is particularly alarming in comparison with the number of scientists working in other fields. For example, Cancer Research UK is reported to fund more than 4,000 research scientists in the UK alone.

The low number of researchers is one of a long list of worrying figures in AMR. Cases of antibiotic-resistant infections have been rising steeply over the past 15 years, with almost 60% of Escherichia coli infections now resistant to penicillins. Lord O’Neill’s AMR review predicted that, by 2050, AMR will account for over 10 million deaths per year worldwide, more than those attributable to cancer. By the same year, if no new antibiotics are developed, the impact on the global economy will be $100 trillion.

Warning signs are already present that the future pipeline of new treatments is in danger. According to intellectual property lawyers Marks and Clerk, antibiotic patent applications worldwide dropped by over a half from 2004 to 2013. Additionally, fewer new drugs are emerging from clinical trials, with only two new molecular entities being approved by US regulators between 2008 and 2012, down from 16 in the early 1980s. Most worryingly of all, no new classes of antibiotics that are effective against the most serious gram-negative infections have been introduced in 55 years.

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Dr Peter Jackson is an experienced UK-based serial entrepreneur in the life sciences sector. Over the past 10 years, he has created six new companies, targeting novel therapeutics across infection, oncology and immunology, as well as in agrochemicals and life sciences services. Peter has over 25 years’ experience in the sector, previously holding senior executive roles as Commercial Director then Vice President of Avecia’s Pharmaceutical Products business unit, following senior commercial and R&D positions at predecessor companies Zeneca and ICI. During 2015-16, Peter was chairman of the steering committee created to establish the UK’s translational R&D centre focused on antimicrobial resistance, the AMR Centre, and now runs the enterprise as its executive director.
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