More than 20 biopharmaceutical companies on Thursday joined forces to invest nearly $1 billion in a new fund aimed at supporting the development of antibiotics to address the rapid rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The AMR Action Fund, spearheaded by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), will look to bring two to four new antibiotics to patients by 2030.
Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks, who is also president of IFPMA, said the fund will help “sustain an antibiotic pipeline that is on the verge of collapse,” with some major players, including Novartis and Sanofi, having already pulled back from R&D into anti-infectives in recent years. Ricks suggested that by supporting antibiotic candidates through the most challenging later stages of development, the AMR Action Fund will “ultimately [provide] governments time to make the necessary policy reforms to enable a sustainable antibiotic pipeline.”
Pfizer, which has pledged $100 million to the fund, as well as Boehringer Ingelheim, which is contributing $50 million, are among the participants. Others include Almirall, Amgen, Bayer, Chugai, Daiichi Sankyo, Eisai, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, LEO Pharma, Lundbeck, Menarini, Merck & Co., Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Roche, Shionogi, Takeda, Teva and UCB.
Specifically, the AMR Action Fund, which is expected to be operational during the fourth quarter, will invest in smaller biotechnology companies focused on developing innovative antibacterial treatments that address the highest priority public health needs. It will also provide technical support to portfolio companies by giving them access to expertise and resources from larger biopharmaceutical firms. Moreover, the initiative hopes to bring together a “broad alliance” of industry and non-industry stakeholders in a bid to “encourage governments to create market conditions that enable sustainable investment in the antibiotic pipeline.”
Tackling the next public health crisis
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla remarked that “as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, we must invest in the development of medicines now so that we are prepared to help prevent the next public health crisis.”
Still, Phil Thomson, GlaxoSmithKline’s president of global affairs, cautioned that the fund “obviously is not the answer to antimicrobial resistance,” adding that the effort should instead “be characterised as a step forward, a step to build on.” The UK drugmaker hopes it will spur other initiatives that provide incentives to invest in antibiotics, he said. Thomson also expressed that more countries should adopt policies like the UK’s plan announced last year to test a “subscription-style” payment model for antibiotic development.