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Competition to fund research into antimicrobial resistance announced

Projects working to tackle the growing global issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are being invited to compete for a capital investment grant from Innovate UK.

Funding awards are likely to be in the range of £200,000 and £2m. Exceptional applications may be awarded more and organisations can request less than £200,000.

Organisations must be UK-based and the project needs to be carried out in the UK. Companies may only apply for 50% of the total cost of the project whereas hospitals, universities, research and technology organisations may apply for 100%. The funding is for capital investment and may not be used for salaries or consumables.

Innovate UK expects to fund between two and 12 projects. Interested parties must register by noon on October 27 and submit their application by noon on November 2. Contracts will be awarded by December.

Qualifying projects

Examples of in-scope applications include but are not limited to bids that aim to:

  • Create an infrastructure that will fast-track the research, development, evaluation and commercialisation of new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines
  • Establish a global multi-centre clinical trials network for drugs, diagnostics and vaccines, which should address major drug-resistant pathogens
  • Build on existing UK infrastructure and set up a sample collection network, which should be via an individual AMR portal from local and international networks that will enable quality research
  • Establish databases for new scientific and public health understanding of AMR

Some aspects of these may not come under capital, so organisations applying will need other sources of funding.

All applications must focus on reducing the impact of antibacterial resistance on human health.

Applications that do not address antibacterial resistance will be out of scope. The competition is not looking for projects involved in new soaps, disinfectants or advanced materials to decrease contamination. However, new antibacterial wound dressings and coatings on ventilator tubes etc, will be in scope.

Global threat of AMR

The Government published the UK’s 5 Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy in 2013. Covering the period 2013 to 2018, the strategy acknowledged that a substantial and extended research effort is needed to address the emergence and spread of AMR. It also recognised the need for more research to speed up the development of new antimicrobials and new technologies to tackle AMR.

The global threat posed by AMR is also recognised by the independent review led by Lord O’Neill of Gatley. His review estimates that failure to tackle drug-resistant infections will lead to at least 10 million extra deaths a year and cost the global economy up to USD $100 trillion (£75 trillion) by 2050.

Drug resistance forms of a diverse range of common pathogens now exist, but of more concern is the level of multidrug resistance that is emerging. Staphylococcus aureus infections resistant to both meticillin and vancomycin are well documented and extremely drug resistant/totally drug resistant forms of Mycobacterium tuberculosis are of global concern.

Multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria such as Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli, pose a significant threat and could render certain respiratory tract, urinary tract and sexually transmitted infections untreatable in the future.

The Innovate UK competition will build on the UK’s capability in AMR research, with particular reference to innovative drugs, diagnostics and vaccines to tackle drug-resistant bacteria. The ultimate aim is to stimulate partnerships of excellence across the UK with strong public/private collaboration in the UK. This should stimulate translation, shorten concept to commercialisation, and provide a support mechanism to small innovative companies, in line with the recommendations of the O’Neill report.