Dr Clive Mason
Programme Director for AMR, LifeArc
Investment and support of academic research and SMEs could prove a pivotal step in mitigating the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Dr Clive Mason — Programme Director for AMR at LifeArc, a self-funded, not-for-profit medical research charity — says better funding can help bridge the gap between research labs and clinics to create new antimicrobials to avert a global AMR crisis.
Shifting focus from existing to new antimicrobials
Antimicrobial productivity slowed in recent decades due to a combination of complex biology and lack of investment due to commercial challenges. “A knock-on effect from this lack of investment means that skills and expertise in this area are being lost,” says Mason.
“Additionally, focus has been on new variations of existing antibiotics rather than completely new drugs and approaches.” While pharmaceutical companies have tended to move away from antimicrobials, he believes there is now an opportunity to develop AMR projects from academic labs and SMEs. However, they often lack appropriate resources and support.
AMR will become a major global issue,
particularly as antibiotics continue to
become less effective for some infections.
Supporting scientists to strengthen their solutions
“We need to move good ideas and discoveries out of the lab,” Mason adds. “We must offer better support and advice in the early stages to help scientists pursue their ideas and strengthen the potential of their approach.”
LifeArc aims to accelerate healthcare innovation by transforming promising life science ideas into medical breakthroughs to improve patient outcomes. They joined Innovate UK and Medicines Discovery Catapult in the Pathways to Antimicrobial Clinical Efficacy (PACE) project — a £30 million initiative supporting early-stage innovation against AMR.
In a first funding call, £10 million is available to support SMEs developing new antimicrobials. “It’s a broad leap from observations in the lab to clinical benefit,” he continues. “But we have to break it down into stepping stones.”
Investing in early translation
With a 10 to 15-year process from discovery to approval for an antimicrobial, Mason warns that AMR will become a major global issue, particularly as antibiotics continue to become less effective for some infections — with low-and-middle-income countries disproportionately impacted. “If AMR thrives in one part of the world, it could impact us all,” he adds. “By investing in early translation, we stand a better chance against AMR.”
LifeArc and the wider PACE team have scientists and project managers who can support SMEs and labs or tap into expertise to address specific problems, help generate data and workflows and support translation studies.
“We want to ensure we are bringing the additional capabilities to give these projects the best chance of success, maximise the connectivity in what is a relatively small community and apply lessons learned.”