Antibiotic resistance is a problem. One study from Europe found that in 2015 there were 33,110 deaths attributable to antibiotic resistance; accounting for morbidity as well, antibiotic resistance lead to a a decrease of 874,541 disability-adjusted life years. CDC data show that antibiotic resistant bacteria and fungi caused 35,900 deaths in 2019, 12,800 deaths due to Clostridioides difficile infections.
To fight this trend, large life sciences firms are teaming up with governments and non-governmental organizations to help fund antibiotic research. Endpoints reports:
Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Merck KGaA and the American Merck — one of the last giants standing — are teaming up to create a $1 billion for-profit venture to bet on small biotechs developing mid-stage antibiotics, Ed Silverman reported for STAT.
Government officials from Germany, Sweden, France and the UK, as well as representatives from Wellcome Trust and Pew Charitable Trusts, will join the companies to announce the initiative on July 9, Silverman wrote. The World Health Organization and the European Investment Bank are also involved in what is being billed as a new solution to the “antibiotic innovation challenge.”
This is welcome news. However, is $1 billion enough? According to Endpoints, they claim the answer is ‘no’.
Considering the number of players and the collective heft they bring — plus the fact that the EIB might contribute as much as 10% — the money isn’t much. By pharma standards, $1 billion won’t even buy you a bolt-on deal, typically in the $2 billion to $5 billion range. It also marks the threshold for blockbuster status that any big cancer drug franchise could easily surpass
While more funding is needed, this is a welcome steps towards addressing a serious public health problem.