June 9th 2020 saw the launch of a new action fund on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), with 23 leading biopharmaceutical companies committing to almost USD one billion in investment to save collapsing antibiotic pipelines. The partnership aims to bring between two and four new antibiotics to patients by 2030 and facilitate much-needed long-term policy and incentive solutions.
In a press release the AMR Action Fund, an initiative of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), set out its aims as to:
- Invest in smaller biotech companies focused on developing innovative antibacterial treatments that address the highest priority public health needs, make a significant difference in clinical practice, and save lives.
- Provide technical support to portfolio companies, giving them access to the deep expertise and resources of large biopharmaceutical companies, to strengthen antibiotic development, and support access and appropriate use of antibiotics.
- Bring together a broad alliance of industry and non-industry stakeholders, including philanthropies, development banks, and multilateral organizations, and help encourage governments to create market conditions that enable sustainable investment in the antibiotic pipeline.
Speaking at the launch, IFPMA Director General Thomas Cueni noted that with all the headlines around COVID-19, the real threat that AMR poses has been somewhat lost. Cueni pointed out that AMR already claims 700,000 lives per year, and, without drastic change, this could rise to ten million by 2050, representing a higher annual death toll than that from cancer.
However, Cueni acknowledged that the current state of the global antibiotics pipeline is “pretty grim,” with companies working in this field insufficiently incentivised to bring new solutions to the market. With no viable system for their development in place, no new classes of antibiotics have been seen since the 1980s, in stark contrast to the advances seen in other fields of medicine. Stefan Oschmann, chairman of the executive board and CEO of Merck and speaking at the launch added that in this time a variety of new modalities and tools have been developed that have not yet been applied to antibiotics research – therefore creating a wealth of opportunities for sufficiently incentivised scientists.
Cueni continued, “Unlike COVID-19, AMR is a predictable and preventable crisis. We must act together to rebuild the pipeline and ensure that the most promising and innovative antibiotics make it from the lab to patients. The AMR Action Fund is one of the largest and most ambitious collaborative initiatives ever undertaken by the pharmaceutical industry to respond to a global public health threat.”
Other key figures from Germany’s most important biopharma firms speaking at the Fund’s launch in Berlin included Hubertus von Baumbach, chairman of the board of managing directors at Boehringer Ingelheim and Stefan Oelrich, member of the board of management of Bayer AG and president of its pharmaceuticals division. von Baumbach, Oelrich, and Oschmann were all keen to note that although their companies are not currently active in antibiotics research, this fund represents an opportunity to re-engage, sharing both capital and know-how with smaller biotech firms to help them solve one of the world’s most pressing health issues.
The initiative has already garnered support from a variety of high-level stakeholders. “AMR is a slow tsunami that threatens to undo a century of medical progress,” stated Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). “I very much welcome this new engagement of the private sector in the development of urgently-needed antibacterial treatments. WHO looks forward to working with the AMR Action Fund to accelerate research to address this public health crisis.”
Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank (EIB), added that “EIB is actively supporting identified market failures with innovative financial instruments, antimicrobial resistance is clearly one. We welcome the opportunity to join forces with public and private actors, such as the pharmaceutical industry, philanthropic funders, multilateral development banks, and the World Health Organization to tackle this threat. The initiative is aligned with the EIB’s core objectives in health and we are proud to be part of the origination group of the new AMR Action Fund.”
The AMR Action Fund, the rollout of which has been delayed by the COVID-19 crisis, will be formally set up by the end of 2020 and will make its first investments in 2021.
The full list of biopharmaceutical companies and foundations supporting the Fund is: Almirall, Amgen, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Chugai, Daiichi Sankyo, Eisai, Eli Lilly and Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, LEO Pharma, Lundbeck, Menarini, Merck, MSD, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Novo Nordisk Foundation, Pfizer, Roche, Shionogi, Takeda, Teva, and UCB.