The growing problem of resistance to antibiotics is very costly, both in human lives and in resources. Uppsala University is now to be a leading actor in a gigantic EU-funded project in which academia, the pharmaceutical industry and the biotechnology industry will collaborate to fast-track the development of new antibiotics.
Over 30 European universities and companies, led by GlaxoSmithKline and Uppsala University, are joining forces in a 6 year programme funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) to develop novel antibiotics against Gram-negative pathogens in a project called ENABLE (European Gram Negative Antibacterial Engine).
The antibiotic crisis
The world faces a growing epidemic of antibiotics resistance, however only two new classes of antibiotics have been brought to the market in the last 30 years. The discovery and development of new antibiotics is essential to maintain medical advances but poses significant scientific, clinical, and financial challenges, particularly for antibiotics active against Gram-negative bacteria (such as E.coli).
Such bacteria have effective barriers against drugs, making treatment difficult, resistance likely and development costs and risks high. In addition, any new antibiotics brought to the market would likely be used cautiously to delay the development of resistance, adding an additional financial challenge in recouping the development costs.
Public private route forward
In response to such barriers in the development of novel antibiotics, the IMI, a research partnership between the European Commission and major pharmaceutical companies (through EFPIA, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations), has launched New Drugs for Bad Bugs (ND4BB), a series of projects to target the bottlenecks in the development and effective use of novel antibiotics.
The ENABLE project, the third within the ND4BB series, spans 13 countries and brings together 32 partners with the mission to establish a significant anti-bacterial drug discovery platform for the progression of research programmes through discovery and Phase 1 clinical trials. A preliminary portfolio of programmes will be expanded through open calls outside the consortium to create a full development pipeline, with the ultimate goal to deliver at least one novel anti-bacterial candidate against gram negative infections into Phase 2 clinical trials by 2019.
This joint public and private investment through the IMI reflects the changing nature of drug development for high-risk areas such as antibiotics, and has the mission to mobilise expertise from universities and industry in Europe to meet global challenges. It places Europe at the forefront of collaborative research between industry and academia for health challenges.
"Accelerated efforts like this with the goal of creating an entirely new family of antibiotics are unique. The commitment fills a long-standing gap: Funding for collaboration is needed for the discovery of new antibacterials if we are to be able to cope with infectious diseases in the future, says Anders Karlén", a professor at the Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy at Uppsala University, who is the scientific co-director of the project.