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Antibacterials get $1 billion injection

A new public–private fund will invest $1 billion to tackle the global problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The AMR Action Fund, announced on 9 July, brings together 23 leading biopharma companies, philanthropies, development banks and institutions to support antibiotic R&D. The aim of this collective effort is to rebuild the biopharma industry’s pipeline and bring two to four new antibiotics to patients by 2030. The fund will launch in the fourth quarter of 2020, when it will begin to invest in, and provide technical support to, smaller biotechs developing innovative antibiotics.

The hope is to avert a looming crisis. Antimicrobial-resistant organisms kill 700,000 people a year, and this number could increase exacerbated by COVID-19-related hospitalizations. Although the need for new antibiotics is urgent, market conditions and reimbursement issues have seen big pharma shy away from new antimicrobial development. Small, innovative biotechs have been similarly stung by poor return on investment: Aradigm (recently acquired by Grifols) was forced to seek bankruptcy and so was Achaogen, only a year after its first product was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. To address such hurdles, the fund will work with the World Health Organization (WHO) and development banks to help governments make the necessary policy reforms. The AMR Action Fund was conceived by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, the Biopharmaceutical CEOs Roundtable and biopharma companies, in collaboration with the WHO, the European Investment Bank and the Wellcome Trust. The collective response was ignited by the WHO’s call to action this January when it highlighted the industry’s weak pipeline and lack of innovation, despite the growing societal need. Other funds focused on early-stage antimicrobial development are the Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) and the Denmark-based Novo Holdings’ REPAIR Impact Fund. However, experts say these initiatives are only buying time; what is truly needed is for governments to come up with reimbursement reforms and business incentives for a sustainable market for antimicrobials.

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Antibacterials get $1 billion injection. Nat Biotechnol 38, 909 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41587-020-0639-4

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