What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the AMR space into 2022?
Biotech companies with antimicrobials in clinical development will continue to encounter near- and long-term financing challenges until policymakers enact necessary market reforms. The costs of drug development continue to climb, competition for talent across the industry is fierce, and private investment into antibiotics is far short of where it needs to be, all of which creates immediate pressure on these companies. On top of that, they are pursuing treatments that benefit society and undergird modern medicine, but which the market consistently and significantly undervalues. The AMR Action Fund will alleviate some of this pressure as we begin to make investments and develop our portfolio, but we cannot do it alone. We are eager to see the renewal of CARB-X’s funding, which is essential to driving the early-stage innovation needed to sustain the clinical-stage pipeline, and we will be closely following how the G7 members act on their recently announced commitments to address antibiotic market failures and expedite the implementation of their AMR action plans.
If you could wave a magic wand, what would you like to see occur in the coming year to further combat AMR?
Global action around market reform for new antibiotics, particularly in the U.S., the European Union, and across the G20. We cannot afford to focus on short-term fixes or one-off investments because AMR is a long-term threat that can only be controlled through sustained innovation, appropriate stewardship, and meaningful access. Implementing market-based solutions that will bring back private investment into this critical field is imperative to re-establishing the R&D ecosystem for antibiotics. The UK’s subscription model, the proposed PASTEUR Act in the U.S., and the European Commission’s ongoing evaluation of a new pharmaceutical strategy all signal that governments recognize the need for pull incentives and are moving in the right direction. I’d use my magic wand to compel policymakers to establish these reforms or similar solutions with the urgency AMR demands.
What would you like to highlight about your work/your organization for this coming year?
2022 is poised to be a catalytic year for the Fund and for the biotech companies working on AMR. We expect to close at least three investments this year and are in active diligence with multiple companies as of this writing. Importantly, we have established our independent Scientific Advisory Board, which helps evaluate the scientific merit and global health impact of potential investments. We are also engaging with a wide variety of stakeholders and have a standing invitation to companies, scientists, and entrepreneurs to engage with us. As we develop our portfolio, we will continue to take a broad, patient-centric view of innovation and invest in companies that are developing both traditional and non-traditional treatments for priority drug-resistant pathogens.
Do you have any predictions for the AMR space in 2022 and beyond? Any calls-to-action you’d like to highlight?
I think we are going to hear more calls for new antibiotics and diagnostics from clinicians across specialties. Oncologists, pulmonologists, surgeons, OBGYNs—they are on the front lines of this crisis and know better than anyone what’s at stake. The threat of drug-resistant infections is likely to become a bigger factor in clinical decision making, and physicians shouldn’t be put in the awful position of foregoing a critical treatment because the risk of infection is too great. To support clinicians and ensure they can deliver the best care possible to patients, we need a coordinated and concerted effort to bring investment and innovation back to antibiotics.
Any additional comments?
New antibiotics are an important piece of the AMR puzzle, but they are only one piece. Cost-effective rapid diagnostics are another piece that needs investment and innovation, especially as we think about issues of access and stewardship. Stewardship requires good diagnostics; if you don’t have a diagnostic, it doesn’t matter what you have in the pharmacy. And to provide access without stewardship will only accelerate resistance. To properly address the AMR crisis, we need a holistic, collaborative approach that supports innovation, stewardship, and access.