Emily Wheeler speaking at World Antimicrobial Resistance Congress

Emily Wheeler, Director of Infectious Disease Policy, BIO, Director, Working to Fight AMR


What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the AMR space into 2022? 

New research in The Lancet estimates that over 1.2 million people worldwide lost their lives to drug-resistant bacterial infections in 2019 -- and that such infections played a part in as many as 4.95 million deaths. That latter figure is close to the global death toll of COVID-19 so far since the beginning of the pandemic. One of our biggest challenges will be showing the public and policymakers the scale and severity of the AMR crisis and why we need to take immediate action on policies to stabilize and sustain the fragile antimicrobial ecosystem, before it's too late.


If you could wave a magic wand, what would you like to see occur in the coming year to further combat AMR? 

It would be incredibly impactful to see the U.S. Congress pass legislation that addresses the market challenges unique to antimicrobial research, development and commercialization. Two proposals in particular, the DISARM Act and the PASTEUR Act, would help align economic incentives with public health needs.

Specifically, DISARM would help ensure appropriate patient access to new treatments that treat serious or life-threatening infections by establishing a new way for Medicare to reimburse hospitals for these innovative antimicrobials. PASTEUR would establish a subscription-style model through which federal government pays a set fee up front for access to novel antimicrobials that address the most pressing public health needs, decoupling payments from sales volumes. Both DISARM and PASTEUR would also dedicate federal resources to strengthening antimicrobial stewardship programs throughout the country. These two policies are complementary, and critically needed in the near term.


What would you like to highlight about your work/your organization for this coming year?

At BIO, we believe that policy action is critically needed to build and sustain a robust pipeline of antimicrobial medicines. Our membership is at the forefront of innovation, and includes over 50 companies working to advance novel products including antibiotics, novel antifungal therapies and nontraditional products that address unmet medical needs for AMR. This year, we will continue to advocate for policies that support the research, development, and commercialization of new, innovative antimicrobial treatments for patients around the world. Working to Fight AMR is a coalition of scientists, public policy experts, and biotech industry leaders raising public awareness about the urgent issue of drug-resistant superbugs. This year, we'll continue to raise awareness about the dangers of the looming "silent pandemic" of AMR and policy solutions that can help spur the development of new antimicrobials.


Do you have any predictions for the AMR space in 2022 and beyond?

The new figures in The Lancet -- that 1.27 million people worldwide lost their lives to drug-resistant bacterial infections in 2019 and that such infections played a part in as many as 4.95 million deaths -- should be an eye-opener. We hope that global leaders will realize that the next global health catastrophe is already here, and not a challenge for tomorrow. We hope that those new figures will incite action from policymakers worldwide when it comes to antimicrobial resistance. In the United States, we hope that leaders in Washington will take policy action to encourage the development of novel antimicrobials and support their safe, appropriate use nationwide.


Any additional comments?

AMR is a problem here and now. 1.27 million people died worldwide from drug-resistant infections in 2019 and superbugs played a role in as many as 4.95 million global deaths. Without action, drug-resistant infections are expected to kill more than 10 million people per year by 2050, outpacing the death toll from cancer. We cannot let this happen. Fortunately, addressing the AMR crisis is not a question of the science. While developing better antibiotics and antifungals will be challenging, we have the scientific expertise to do it. When it comes to solving the economic challenges, we have the ability to do that, too -- but we need action by policymakers to make it happen and avoid further preventable deaths from antimicrobial resistant infections.




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