AMR research gets £39m shot from UK government

antimicrobial resistance

Research initiatives to develop new treatments to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – known as the “silent killer” – will receive a cash injection of up to £39 million ($48.5 million) from the U.K. government’s Global AMR Innovation Fund (GAMRIF).

However, according to the director of Global Health Policy and Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development, it’s nowhere near enough.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – where bacteria have evolved so much that antibiotics and other current treatments are no longer effective against infections – is a silent killer costing millions of lives across the world a year, with one in five of these deaths in children under the age of five.

About the AMR research funding package

Of this new funding package, up to £24 million ($29.9 million) over four years has been awarded to bolster the U.K.’s partnership with CARB-X – a global AMR research initiative – to support the continued early development of new antibiotics, vaccines, rapid diagnostics and other products to combat drug-resistant infections.

The U.K. has already given £20 million ($24.9 million) of its ring fenced Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget to the initiative which, together with other funders, has resulted in CARB-X in turn investing nearly £40 million ($49.7 million) into the U.K.’s science and innovation industry.

In addition to the CARB-X grant, GAMRIF is investing £5 million ($6.2 million) over two years into the Global Antibiotic R&D Partnership (GARDP) to develop – and ensure global access to – new antibiotic treatments against major global health priorities.

UK at ‘center of the global health agenda’

Health Minister Will Quince said: “Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to global health and has led to millions of tragic deaths per year, but the Global AMR Innovation Fund is supporting cutting-edge research and developing vital new treatments to prevent death and disease across the world.

“This funding will provide a much-needed boost to protect people from diseases such as drug-resistant gonorrhea, life-threatening sepsis in newborn babies and serious bacterial infections.

“The U.K. is placing ourselves at the center of the global health agenda and it’s fantastic to be in Geneva at the World Health Assembly to reinforce our commitment to improving health globally and building resilience against future health threats through our new Global Health Framework.”

‘Not nearly enough’

However, Javier Guzman, director of Global Health Policy and Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development, said the amount pledged isn’t going to be enough to make a difference.

“The U.K.’s new Global Health Framework is a step in the right direction – but the amount pledged to strengthen global health security including antimicrobial resistance, pandemic preparedness, and health systems, is not nearly enough to tackle the scale of these complex problems,” Guzman said. 

“The funding also pales in comparison with vertical disease-specific programs (e.g. malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis), such as those implemented by The Global Fund and Gavi, which received just shy of a $1bn in funding from the U.K. in 2021.”

The key aims of the framework are to: strengthen global health security, reform the global health architecture, strengthen country health systems and address key risk factors for ill health, and advance U.K. leadership in science and technology.

Foreign Minister Andrew Mitchell said: “The U.K. is committed to creating strong and inclusive health systems globally, that help end the preventable deaths of mothers, babies and children and are resilient to global health threats.

“Through investment, innovation and engagement with key partners, we can develop a healthier, safer and more prosperous world for everyone.”

A four-year grant of up to £10 million ($12.4 million) has also been signed with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The GAMRIF-IDRC partnership, known as InnoVet-AMR, will identify solutions to reduce the emerging risk to global health and food security posed by AMR in animals.

The latest announcement comes on the heels of the UK Health Security Agency launching a 10-year science strategy. The plan sets out how science can save more lives and contribute to the U.K.’s ambition of being a global science superpower.

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