A growing and worrying resistance to many of our most prescribed antibiotics poses a major challenge – but British pharma is fighting back
By Mike Cowley
WITH 10 million people due to die unnecessarily each year by 2050 as a result of growing resistance to antibiotics, it is a potential disaster that is not only casting a giant shadow over the world’s health but has now by necessity finally forced its way to the forefront of the life science sector agenda.
Despite the now well recognized dire threat, until recently big pharma companies had not invested heavily in the R&D of new antimicrobials because of the number of antibiotics available which have worked perfectly well to date. Every industry is based on supply and demand and until recently there has been no demand.
Now all that is changing and the fight back is well underway.
And it is being led by centres like the Antimicrobial Resistance Centre based in Alderley Park in the north of England, which is acting as a business catalyst for companies with novel antimicrobials, supporting them from concept through to development.
Nor is the AMR Center alone in this work in the region as is also home to Evotech, the largest contract research organization in Europe focused on AMR, and a clutch of leading universities and health bodies active in the sector supported by the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) health partnership.
A significant milestone in the north of England’s AMR story came recently when Liverpool’s renowned School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Liverpool joined together to create a global centre of excellence for AMR research. Meanwhile the University of Manchester is gathering data on the use of antibiotics to tackle excessive dispensation by primary care physicians. The unrivalled importance of this AMR research – and the region where it is located – has been endorsed by the 2018 BIO International Convention who are dedicating a major seminar which is being delivered by leaders from the north of England on the value of addressing AMR on Wednesday morning. Separately the NHSA is facilitating a linked pre-event breakfast briefing today for 140 delegates from Boston and BIO.
Both events will provide a platform for what are now recognized as the world’s leading experts in the field including Dr. Peter Jackson, Chief Executive of the AMR Centre, all of whom come from the north of England.
The British speakers have been sponsored by the UK Department for International trade in association with the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), a driving force behind the booming life and health science sector in the region under Dr. Hakim Yadi, its CEO who is leading the delegation.
Whereas the UK is acknowledged as leading the world in warning about AMR thanks to the work by Professor Dame Sally Davies and more recently by Lord Jim O’Neill, it is the North that has effectively stolen the march on the rest of the country and the world in terms of action.
However the US is not out of the loop when it comes to AMR with its Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) initiative led by Boston University to test promising antibiotics which is backed by the US Government in the form of BARDA and NIAID and by the UK including the Wellcome Trust and significantly the high profile AMR Centre in the north of England.
Not that the north of England’s offering to the life science industry begins and ends with AMR. Far from it.
What most life science companies based in the US have yet to appreciate is that the north of England is creating the number one clinical test bed for the sector in the world.
This is because the UK is alone in the world in that its National Health Service (NHS) offers cradle to grave information based on all the population with records that go back 70 years.
Unlike patients in the US who move between insurance companies and are therefore often difficult to track, UK patients are given one number at birth which remains with them for the rest of their lives – offering a unique Big Data mine as long as you can not only access it but get the necessary consent to do so.
Fortunately for the north of England, its universities and NHS regional bodies are advanced in working with their populations to ensure that they gain the consent of individuals before providing access to data. This has all be done through a campaign that has now received independent and national approval called #DataSavesLives.
More recently, the NHSA has led the pioneering Connected Health Cities project across the north of England. By joining up health data with other forms of community and social data, the programme is creating Learning Health Systems. These advanced technical platforms ensure that NHS services are better connected, more efficient and focused on the needs of real patients as they move through and across health services.
“Along with the creation of learning health systems in over 15 disease pathways, Connected Health Cities has enabled us to open a new dialogue with our communities as to how their information can be used to better support them and the NHS,” says Dr. Yadi. “In turn, this lead to the ‘Data Saves Lives’ slogan which has been taken up around the world.
Our collaborative approach across the north of England allows us to work with communities, academics, innovators, SMEs and corporates in a totally new way.
That is the key message from the NHSA and it is bearing fruit. Last month, the NHSA signed a strategic agreement with Israel and BIO 2018 will see it do the same with other nations during BIO. However the US remains the big prize.
“The North is very much open for business and we would like nothing better than to build on the UK/US special relationship to develop 21st century healthcare after Brexit,” says Dr. Yadi. “And this will include tackling the threat of AMR which currently hangs ominously over us all.”
England’s North in health science facts and figures
- Health science is $23.35bn of the North’s $405bn output, forecast to grow by 44.6% by 2030. Of $171bn public money spent in the UK on medical care, $40.8bn is spent in the North.
- The Northern Health Science Alliance is a health partnership across the North’s most research intensive universities, NHS teaching hospital trusts and four academic health science networks. These universities have a research income of $1.6bn a year, generating $16.3bn and creating 119,000 jobs.
- If the North were a country it would be the eighth largest in Europe.
- 570,000 people are employed in health sciences across the North, 48,000 jobs are supported in the private sector and its supply chain. Employment growth is forecast as 2.5%
- North Health services sector is worth $41bn and employs over 500,000.
- The North is home to 1,165 companies in health sciences, 20.7% of the UK total and the sector accounts for 47,800 jobs. There are more employees in medical technology in the North of England than the South East.
- The North exports $9.75bn worth of medicinal and pharmaceutical products yearly, 44% of UK exports in this category. In the last 10 years, the value of these exports from the North grew 53.8%