London It is one of the largest donations in Oxford University history. British chemical company Ineos is supporting the establishment of a new institute for antimicrobial resistance with £ 100 million. The money will finance the researchers’ work for five years.
The collaboration between industry, researchers and governments is crucial to fight the growing antibiotic resistance in the world, said Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe on Tuesday. The new “Ineos Institute” at the top British university is intended to develop antibiotics for humans and animals and to promote more conscious use of drugs worldwide.
The resistance to antibiotics is the “silent pandemic”, says David Sweetnam, one of the three initiators of the project, the Handelsblatt. It kills an estimated 1.5 million people a year. “If we do nothing, ten million people will die in 2050 because they are resistant to antibiotics,” says the practicing doctor.
“Instead of a sudden earthquake like Corona, we are dealing with a slow tsunami here. The water has already withdrawn from the beach and it will hit us at some point. “
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The last major breakthrough in the field was decades ago. A new class of antibiotics was last developed in the 1980s, says Sweetnam. In his day-to-day work as a surgeon, he sees how the former miracle drugs are showing less and less effect. Because development is expensive and profits low, pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to research.
Corona crisis as a wake-up call
The corona crisis should now serve as a wake-up call. “The pandemic is helping us in a perverse way,” says Sweetnam. The population is currently learning what it means when a disease is out of control. “People only forgive their governments once for being unprepared. You will not forgive it a second time. “
The crisis shows that years of research by companies like Biontech and universities like Oxford. “If the researchers hadn’t laid the foundation for the vaccines years ago, we’d be locked down for at least another year,” says Sweetnam. The same applies to antibiotics. If people no longer respond to the old antibiotics, you can’t just develop new ones quickly. “We have to lay the foundations now.”
The new institute in Oxford will initially develop an antibiotic for animals in five years. Because four fifths of all antibiotics intended for humans are used in agriculture worldwide, says Sweetnam. The goal is “realistic,” says Sweetnam. “If we can do that, it would be a greater scientific success than the corona vaccine.”
Ineos’ £ 100million is just the seed capital. Several hundred million are needed to fund research in the long term. The researchers hope for the support of the British government, which wants to turn the country into a “scientific superpower” after Brexit. We are also in talks with foundations such as the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, says Sweetnam.
The studies may take place in China. This is how you can bypass the “European bureaucracy”, says Sweetnam. The head of research, microbiologist Tim Walsh, has good contacts in Beijing, and several of his former students now hold management positions in the government.
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