Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) has launched a €223.7m research programme, which will see five major pharmaceutical companies attempt to tackle the rising threat of drug-resistant bacteria.
It is hoped that GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Sanofi and Basilea Pharmaceutica, alongside scientific academics, will help to speed up the delivery of new, stronger antibiotics to patients.
Antibacterial drug development is no longer financially viable due to scientific challenges and complex regulatory requirements.
As a result, only two classes of antibiotics have been brought to market in the last 30 years.
But Innovative's investment has now provided an incentive for companies to focus on addressing the development of new antibiotics for bacterial infections as an essential societal need.
In a joint statement released on 24 May 2012, GSK and AstraZeneca welcomed the news.
GSK president of pharmaceuticals R&D, Patrick Vallance, said: "The rise of infections such as MRSA is well known, but today marks a chance to reverse the threat. This announcement signals a new model of collaboration and a willingness to change and adapt to seek different solutions."
AstraZeneca president of R&D, Martin Mackay, said: "The steady rise of drug-resistant bacteria is an imminent and urgent threat to public health and without a reliable arsenal of effective antibiotics, modern medical care is not possible."
IMI's programme is part of the European Commission's Action Plan against the rising threats from antimicrobial resistance, which was launched in November 2011.
This major programme on antimicrobials will utilise up to €600m in funding over the next seven years.
Initial projects will focus on building and training networks of researchers, facilitating and increasing the exchange of research data, and improving the efficiency of clinical trials on new antibiotics through better laboratory tests and better trial design.
European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations director general, Richard Bergström, said: "Our researchers and the scientific community have realised that we can only deal with this urgent threat by working together and pooling our knowledge. IMI is perfectly suited for such open innovation. And by co-funding clinical trials, policy makers in Europe have created a strong incentive for companies and investors to come back to this field of research."
Image: The steady rise of drug-resistant bacteria is an imminent. Photo courtesy of: Janice Haney Carr.