Effective antibiotics will come from existing drugs and data, says charity chief.Professor Colin Garner
by Craig Nicholson cnnews@ResearchResearch.com
Antibiotic Research UK is aiming to raise £30 million to help it reach its target of getting at least one antimicrobial drug to market by 2019, according to chief executive Colin Garner.
Speaking to Research Fortnight, Garner said that the fundraising target was chosen as it is roughly the amount that venture capitalists tend to devote to setting up a drug development company. Antibiotic Research UK has just appointed its first part-time fundraiser, and expects to appoint more soon. The charity, which was set up in July to focus solely on finding new antimicrobial medicines, will concentrate on repositioning or repurposing existing drugs rather than on developing any from scratch, Garner says. The charity will look for drugs for which there are already human exposure data, such as those originally intended to treat cancer or arthritis. These drugs will be taken through proof-of-concept clinical efficacy studies before being passed on to bigger charities, pharmaceutical companies or even governments for the phase III trials that are required for licensing.
This approach should be commended, says Bina Rawal, the director of research, medical and innovation at the Association of the British Pharmaceutica Industry. “As new chemical entities will take longer to develop, it makes sense to start some repurposing programmes first,” she says Fundraising has begun in earnest and calls are being made to the public, governments and to philanthropists.
The charity is initially planning to identify about five promising drugs, and might then allow donor to choose which ones their money will be used for. This is part of its aim to involve the public as much as possible. However, Garner says it has been difficult to find people, including famous people, who are prepared to talk about their experiences of antibiotic-resistant infections.
Iona Joy, head of the charities team at the consultancy New Philanthropy Capital, says that this will be crucial if the charity is to achieve what she calls its “extremely ambitious” funding target. “There’s a chunk of donors that only respond to personal stories,” she says. Beth Breeze, director of the centre for philanthropy at the University of Kent, however, says that an eight figure fundraising target is not unrealistic. But she agrees that personal passion will be needed and warns that “developing relationships to the point where a ‘big ask’ can be made takes, on average, 18 months from first contact”.
Antibiotic Research UK has lodged an expression of interest with the Medical Research Council’s funding calls on antimicrobial resistance, and also recently met Michel Goldman, the outgoing director of the European Innovative Medicines Initiative. The second phase of the initiative, which started in 2014, has €3.3 billion (£2.6bn) to distribute, and one of its focuses is antibiotic Crucially, unlike in the initiative’s first phase, the funding will be available to charities.
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