While focus is on the global deaths from COVID-19 crossing the six lakh mark, we have lost seven lakh people to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) each year, which is why more than 20 biopharmaceutical companies recently announced the launch of the AMR Action Fund that aims to bring two to four new antibiotics to patients by 2030. Silas Holland, Interim Director – External Affairs, AMR Action Fund explains to Viveka Roychowdhury how the collaboration will support small biotech firms involved with promising antibiotic R&D as well as with governments, not lobbying for specific legislative changes but participating in the broader debate about AMR and the need to support sustainable investment in antibiotic R&D
Research on new antibiotics does not get funding as the market is limited due antibiotic stewardship programmes to prevent overuse as well as increasing patient awareness on the harms of self-medication. In fact, most of the 20 bio-pharma companies that are partnering with the AMR Action Fund to put up this new investment of $1 billion have abandoned or contracted out their antibiotic research programmes for this reason. How will the Fund address this issue?
We know that collaboration will be critical to address the global AMR crisis. The AMR Action Fund investors include both companies that continue to invest in antibiotic R&D (e.g., MSD, Pfizer, GSK) and those that do not – including some that were once active in this space but exited due to the market challenges (e.g., Lilly, Novartis).
Many of the exciting and innovative products in the antibiotic pipeline are being developed by small biotech companies. So, this is where the AMR Action Fund will focus its investment. However, because developing antibiotics is a long, complex and expensive process and there is no viable market for new antibiotics, many of those small companies struggle to secure the necessary funding to cover the challenging later stages of development. In recent years, a number of antibiotic-focused biotechs have declared bankruptcy or exited this space, despite having successfully developed new antibiotics, due to the lack of commercial sustainability.
With the AMR Action Fund, the pharma industry is stepping up to support these biotechs with funding and expertise to strengthen and accelerate antibiotic R&D. Nevertheless, in order to ensure that we have a sustainable market in the long-term, policymakers need to take action too, by enacting market-based reforms that create an environment where antibiotic R&D can flourish. We believe that by bringing together a broad alliance of industry and non-industry stakeholders, including philanthropies, development banks and multi-lateral organisations, the AMR Action Fund can help encourage governments to create market conditions that enable sustainable investment in the antibiotic pipeline. These policy reforms will address the underlying market challenges for antibiotics that led to the larger companies exiting antibiotic R&D and bankruptcies of the antibiotic-focused biotechs.
The AMR Action Fund aims to bring two to four new antibiotics to patients by 2030. The Fund is expected to be operational during the fourth quarter of 2020. What are the milestones to the 2030 goal? Does the Fund already have a few candidates, in terms of companies or investigational candidates, in their sights? What is the expected financial commitment per biopharma partner?
The AMR Action Fund is a true collective industry initiative, bringing together more than 20 innovative pharma companies of different sizes from around the world. Companies voluntarily set their investment level and committed up to $100 million. Beyond funding, the AMR Act