Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the Liverpool-founded drug developer Redx Pharma are leading players in the cluster of firms and bodies in the region tackling the issue head-on. Tony McDonough reports.
Scientists in Liverpool and across the North West are now at the forefront of the battle against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – a problem the UN has declared “the greatest and most urgent risk” to public health around the world”.
The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and the Liverpool-founded drug developer Redx Pharma are leading players in the cluster of firms and bodies in the region tackling the issue head-on.
The emergence of antibiotics in the 1920s revolutionised modern medicine but the number of effective drugs is dwindling due to overuse and the emergence of bacteria resistant to their use.
It is estimated that AMR will claim 10m extra lives a year by 2050 – a higher death toll than cancer.
Speaking at the Bioinfect 2016 conference at Alderley Park, Cheshire, this week, the chair of the UK Government’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance said the North of England was well placed to tackle the issue.
Lord Jim O’Neill told the conference: “For most of the past two years of my life two things have been separately driving me. One is antimicrobial resistance. The other is the Northern Powerhouse.
“I am really enthusiastic about merging the two in some areas.”
He highlighted the AMR Centre, a public-private organisation set up earlier this year at Alderley Park to conduct and fund research into new drugs and diagnostic advances, as an example of how the North can help tackle the crisis.
“The idea that there can be a specialist AMR Centre right in the middle of the Northern Powerhouse is fantastic,” he said.
“I will do whatever I can to support the AMR Centre here. It’s a very exciting development. It does represent genuine research.
“We need this. If this centre helps generate new ideas, new gram-negatives, especially, that’s the cutting edge in terms of solving this huge problem and that will attract a lot of investors, including from pharmaceutical world.
“Life science is one of four areas where the North has an edge and what more could be more at the forefront than a centre to tackle AMR?”
Chris Doherty, managing director of Alderley Park identified the firms and organisations that formed the North’s AMR cluster.
They included the AMR Centre, LSTM, Evotec, Redx Pharma (which recently relocated from Liverpool city centre to Alderley Park), Blueberry Therapeutics and Absynth Biologics.
He added: “The geographical scope of the AMR problem is unlimited and its consequences are devastating.
“The North of England has always been a place of innovation and discovery and has a very strong AMR cluster.”
Lord O’Neill expressed his confidence that the AMR issue will remain high on the policy agenda.
His review team’s achievements include getting AMR on the agenda at the G20 summit chaired by China in September. Germany will host the summit in 2017 and continue to recognise AMR as a priority.
“There is defined focus on working up a new model for support for new drugs in this area. The UN declaration in September is also a stand out moment,” he said.
“It’s only the fourth time in history of UN there’s been a high level declaration about health. I like to describe that declaration as the end of the beginning – it was a really important moment.”