• The IMI AMR Accelerator

AMR – a global public health emergency

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an increasingly serious threat to global public health. According to an ECDC study from 2018, about 33,000 people die each year as a direct consequence of an infection due to bacteria resistant to antibiotics in Europe alone. Although there are no exact figures that capture the true burden of AMR, it is estimated to cause over 700,000 deaths annually worldwide, and a new UN report warned that if no action is taken, drug-resistant diseases could cause as many as 10 million deaths per year by 2050. Drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) is estimated to cause a third of deaths due to AMR worldwide. About one-quarter of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, and people with compromised immune systems are at highest risk for developing active TB disease. The lack of efficiency of current TB drugs is emphasised by the nearly 1.5 million annual deaths reported by the WHO. There are significant scientific challenges to the discovery and development of new agents to treat and prevent AMR infections, including those caused by Gram-negative bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and non-tuberculous mycobacteria.

Introducing the IMI AMR Accelerator

In its 2017 European One Health Action Plan against AMR, the European Commission included a chapter dedicated to boosting research, development and innovation which cites the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) as one of the tools to be used to address AMR. IMI launched the AMR Accelerator programme in 2019 as part of IMI2 – Call 15 and 16. The goal of the AMR Accelerator is to progress the development of new medicines to treat or even prevent resistant bacterial infections in Europe and worldwide. The AMR Accelerator comprises three pillars: A Capability Building Network (the COMBINE project) will coordinate the programme and carry out research to strengthen the scientific basis in the AMR field, while the Tuberculosis Drug Development Network (the ERA4TB project) will work to accelerate the discovery of new combinations of drugs to treat TB. Finally, Portfolio Building Networks (the RespiriTB, RespiriNTM, TRIC-TB, GNA NOW and AB-Direct projects) will support collaborative efforts to discover, develop and advance new and innovative agents to prevent or treat AMR.

The scope of the AMR Accelerator is broad; under one structure, it addresses many of the scientific challenges of AMR, and it supports the development of new ways to prevent and treat infections with resistant bacteria, including new antibiotics. Within this broad scope, projects will develop new preclinical tools and methods, and validate alternative or ‘non-traditional’ approaches.

A pipeline of medicines for the treatment or prevention of resistant bacterial infections will be progressed, and data from EFPIA-funded clinical trials will be analysed to assist in the translation of preclinical data to clinical results of novel anti-infective agents. By 2025, the AMR Accelerator projects are expected to deliver up to 10 new preclinical candidates and up to 5 ‘Phase II-ready’ compounds to address antibiotic resistant infections.