× Medicines Discovery Catapult

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 former chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies warning that, if antibiotics lose their effectiveness, it would spell “the end of modern medicine”.

Antimicrobial drug development for CF

People with CF 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 urgently needed.

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.