Report suggests new ecosystem approach to fight antibiotic resistance

An international consortium managed by the University of Geneva and AstraZeneca issues final report on its research-based suggestions for driving antibiotic development while ensuring access and sustainable use. Uppsala University is one of the partners.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed antibiotic resistance to be one of the three greatest threats to human health today, as bacteria become increasingly resistant and too few treatments are being developed to combat them. The research project DRIVE-AB, a consortium managed by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and AstraZeneca, has determined that a market entry reward of $1 billion per antibiotic globally could significantly increase the number of new antibiotics coming to the market in the next 30 years.

DRIVE-AB (Driving Re-investment in research and development for antibiotics and advocating their responsible use) was tasked with developing and costing new economic models to promote antibiotic innovation and the sustainable use of the resulting, novel antibiotics. The consortium, which was supported by the Innovative Medicines Initiative and brought together 23 partners including pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, and public health organisations, assessed more than 30 incentives gathered from different industries for how each would affect antibiotic innovation, sustainable use and equitable availability. Uppsala University is one of the partners, with a leading role in regards to involving industry and organisations in the project.

The market entry reward, which DRIVE-AB recommends providing in addition to unit sales for qualifying antibiotics, aims to create a more attractive market for investment in antibiotic research and development (R&D) designed to attract increased and sustainable private sector funding. A market entry reward is a series of financial payments to an antibiotic developer for successfully achieving regulatory approval for an antibiotic that meets predefined criteria to address public health needs, with obligations for sustainable use, equitable availability and supply. Based on its research, DRIVE-AB estimates that up to two innovative antibiotics addressing priority pathogens identified by the WHO could receive a market entry reward in the next five years.

“Our simulations predict that introducing market entry rewards could potentially help to bring to market a total of 16 to 20 new truly innovative antibiotics in the next 30 years. Without incentives, some scientifically promising treatments would probably never make it to patients,” says Professor Francesco Ciabuschi, a DRIVE-AB partner at Uppsala University.

Of the incentives the consortium analysed, three additional models were determined to be most effective for stimulating R&D and ensuring that critical antibiotics continue to be accessible and can be used sustainably: 1) non-refundable research grants; 2) governmental or non-profit pipeline coordinators that identify and fill gaps in the global antibiotic pipeline; and 3) long-term supply continuity funding to ensure a predictable supply of generic antibiotics over time. Stephan Harbarth, professor at the University of Geneva Faculty of Medicine and co-coordinator of DRIVE-AB, highlights that “the R&D process is long. We have to implement these incentives now in order to get new antibiotics in 10 to 20 years from now.”


Uppsala University