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Antibiotic research programme launched

Charity plans to develop new antibiotic therapy by early 2020s

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 21 August 2015

A major research programme into tackling antibiotic resistant bacteria (superbugs) has been announced by charity Antibiotic Research UK.

The charity says its first research programme to tackle superbugs was crucial as they had become an increasing problem in hospitals where bacteria had become more and more resistant to existing antibiotics.

The research programme, which requires the charity to raise £120,000, will focus on what it calls an under-researched area of finding drugs that can break antibiotic resistance, thus allowing the life of current antibiotics to be extended.

The charity aims to raise sufficient funds – estimated at £30m – over the next five years to bring at least one new antibiotic therapy to the market.

Around 2,000 existing drugs used to treat any disease will be tested as antibiotic resistance breakers to see if any of them can work alongside the antibiotic to break resistance.

England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies recently highlighted the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, saying that all the medical procedures currently taken for granted such as cancer treatment, open heart surgery, hip and knee replacement and organ transplantation will become much more risky.

Ashley Burgess, the chairman of the charity said: “We should be afraid since so many of us rely on antibiotics working.”

Professor Colin Garner, the charity’s chief executive, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to look at drugs such as those used for heart disease, arthritis, psychiatric disorders etc to see if they when put together with an antibiotic can kill superbugs.

“The advantage of the approach is that it is faster and cheaper than trying to find a new antibiotic from scratch. We need the public to help us fund this programme which we anticipate will start in early 2016.”

There was a gap left by many of the large pharmaceutical companies who had withdrawn from antibiotic drug development, he said.

Therefore, the charity needed to raise up to £30 million over the next five to seven years, through a combination of traditional fundraising, corporate sponsorship, giving by trusts and foundations as well as newer fundraising methods such as crowd funding over the next five years.

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