New Antibiotics Needed for Tough Bugs?

New Antibiotics Needed for Tough Bugs?

May 29th, 2012 // 12:33 pm @


Yesterday, several European drugmakers – including GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi – agreed to work with academics to combat antimicrobial resistance and speed the delivery of new antibiotics. The $285 million effort, called NewDrugs4BadBugs, will be run by the Innovative Medicines Initiative, which was launched by the European Commission. The move reflects not only a growing need for antibiotics, but the increasing reliance on public-private partnerships to jumpstart industry involvement. Margins can be thin, you see. John Rex, a vp for clinical infection at AstraZeneca, which is part of the group, penned this piece for our friends at PharmaPhorum, who were gracious enough to allow us to run this for you…

The increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a growing problem and a global health issue. Seventy years ago the discovery of antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial infections seemed like a solved problem. Since then the causative bacteria have found new ways of resisting antibiotic treatments, evolving and adapting to survive. We not only need effective antibiotics to treat infectious disease, we need them for an array of other medical procedures. Much of modern medical care — joint replacement, care of a premature infant, treatment of cancer — is simply not possible without effective antibiotics.

I have been working in the field of antibiotic research for over 20 years. The scientific and economic challenges of this work have led many large pharmaceutical companies to abandon this field of research and AstraZeneca is among the few large pharmas still committed to investigating novel antibiotics. However, with no major advancements in recent years, the treatment of infection is going through something of a global crisis. Paired with the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, it has led us to think differently about the way we tackle this problem.

While NewDrugs4BadBugs might sound like a light-hearted title, the threat from antimicrobial resistance is deadly serious. The Innovative Medicines Initiative program aims to address some of the key barriers to the development and delivery of effective antibiotics. This will be a pioneering approach to antibiotic research in Europe that will see a wide group of experts brought together, sharing an unprecedented level of data and information.

I see this programme as following a three-stage approach – to improve the understanding of antimicrobial resistance, design and implement efficient clinical trials, and finally, take novel drug candidates through clinical development. We have a real opportunity here to take advantage of the resources, expertise and scientific innovation that the Innovative Medicines Initiative has brought together.

We plan to progress the development of new drugs for the treatment of bacterial infection through fresh research that will support antibiotics already under investigation. For example, and pending the results of current work, AstraZeneca’s investigational monoclonal antibody, MEDI4893, may be included in the research programme. This is currently in late-stage preclinical development and works to target a toxin released by Staphylococcus aureus. Again depending on the results of current work, AZD9773, an investigational treatment for severe sepsis and septic shock, conditions triggered by uncontrolled bacterial infection may also be included in the program.

I believe the key factor to the success of this collaboration is the data and knowledge sharing. A new ‘Information hub’ is being created to allow the sharing between both the partners and across the wider antibiotic research community, helping us to learn from the antibiotic development efforts of others. As in many things, we can often learn more from our failures than our successes. While the projects that do well are celebrated, published, and presented, this partnership gives an opportunity to provide each other with details of what does not seem to work, which will help foster a shared and improved understanding of the science behind antibiotic resistance. It will also minimize any potential inefficiencies in future R&D, supporting the accelerated delivery of new medicines for patients.

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