Two of the UK's biggest pharmaceutical companies have joined forces in an unlikely alliance – to speed up the hunt for more powerful antibiotics.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and AstraZeneca are to share information in a £180 million initiative to to enable development of antibiotics for bacterial infections and encourage greater sharing of information.
The two companies will collaborate with three other pharmaceutical companies - Janssen, Sanofi and Basilea Pharmaceutica - as well as scientists in the public sector.
Antibiotic resistance is becoming a major health threat around the world but drug firms have been slow to develop new antibiotics.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, some 25,000 people die in Europe every year due to bugs' resistance to antibiotics.
But despite the continued emergence of bacteria resistant to existing drugs, pharma firms remain largely inactive in this area, due to scientific difficulties in finding new agents, regulatory complexities and a lack of commercial incentives needed to encourage investment.
The new research programme, dubbed NewDrugs4BadBugs, intends to boost the currently faltering discovery and development of new antibiotics.
The proposed research programme will initially focus on three key areas:
Development of pipeline antibiotics – The initiative will see new research that will progress potential antibiotics already under investigation through clinical trials and improve the design of future clinical trials
Information sharing - NewDrugs4BadBugs will bring about an "unprecedented level" of data and knowledge sharing. A new information hub will facilitate information-sharing and encourage greater collaboration between the public and private sectors.
Research and discovering new antibiotics – tackling infections caused by bacteria is a difficult challenge because of the complex defence mechanisms they employ. This research programme aims to find more approaches to the design of antibiotics that could be effective against bacteria, increase understanding of their defence mechanisms and use this knowledge to support future drug discovery efforts.
Patrick Vallance, head of GSK's research and development, said: "The rise of infections such as MRSA is well known, but today marks a chance to reverse the threat.
"This announcement signals a new model of collaboration and a willingness to change and adapt to seek different solutions.