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Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) can be defined as the ability of disease-causing microorganisms to survive treatment with a previously effective antibiotic. The prevalence of resistance is increasing, making antimicrobial resistance a high priority worldwide, with England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies warning that, if antibiotics lose their effectiveness, it would spell “the end of modern medicine”.

Over 10,500 people in the UK are living with cystic fibrosis (CF). People with CF experience a build-up of thick sticky mucus in their lungs and other organs, which creates the perfect environment for harmful bacteria and fungi to grow. People with CF therefore suffer from frequent and persistent lung infections and are routinely treated with oral and inhaled antibiotics. Antibiotics remain a necessary key therapeutic for people with CF to manage both acute pulmonary flare-ups (exacerbations) and for chronic control of lung infections. As a result, the development of AMR is a crisis for people with CF and the development of new antimicrobials is an urgent unmet need for people affected by CF, who die from antibiotic failures, and suffer significant burden from chronic daily exposure to antibiotics.

It is, therefore, very concerning that no new classes of antibiotics have been developed in the last 25 years. There are many different reasons for this, including the complex biology underlying infections and AMR, and  the lack of return on industry R&D investment–companies are unable to invest significantly to develop a new antibiotic, if it is only used as a last resort,  when other commonly used antibiotics are no longer effective.

Timeline demonstrating the discovery of antibiotic classes
Timeline demonstrating the discovery of antibiotic classes used in the clinic. The antibiotic “discovery void” began in 1987 when the last antibiotic class was successfully introduced into the clinic. Adapted from Challenges of Antibacterial Discovery.

This has been recognised by the UK Government and the new 5-year national action plan to tackle AMR was released in January 2019. This highlights the need to support the development of new therapeutics by establishing collaborative partnerships that link UK researchers and industry to make best use of data, information and skills and by investing in research in academia and businesses, including small to medium enterprises (SMEs), through UK Research and Innovation and other funding agencies.

How will the CF Syndicate in AMR help?

In the UK, there is a community of SMEs and academics demonstrating world-class CF and AMR knowledge and expertise.

Focused on the needs of people living with CF, the CF Syndicate in AMR has identified the specific challenges faced by researchers in industry and academia in the discovery and translation of new CF antimicrobials. These include technical challenges as well as the challenges of navigating the complex drug development and regulatory landscapes to bring their products to the clinic and ultimately to market.

The CF Syndicate in AMR aims to tackle these challenges by working closely with innovators, regulators and the other key players in the AMR space.

The CF Syndicate in AMR has been set up by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and MDC to accelerate the translation of new antimicrobials to the clinic, bringing new treatment options to people affected by CF faster.