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EU launches new research projects to combat anti-microbial resistance




Why is research on anti-microbial resistance important?

Anti-microbial agents – such as antibiotics – have dramatically reduced the number of deaths from infectious diseases during the 70 years since their introduction. However, through overuse and misuse, many micro-organisms have become resistant to them. This growing anti-microbial resistance (AMR) is estimated to cause each year some 25,000 deaths and more than €1.5 billion in healthcare expenses and productivity losses in Europe alone.

The situation is serious because anti-microbials have become an essential tool for modern medicine. Many surgical operations could not be performed without them. Yet, industrial investment in the development of new antibiotics has declined dramatically, and only a few products that could be used to combat resistant infections are in the late-stage of development.

A co-ordinated and large-scale European research effort is therefore required to bring new effective antibiotics or alternative treatments to patients, and to re-engage industry to carry out research and develop new products in this area. Scientific research and innovation are also necessary to inform policy-making on AMR and to develop new diagnostic tools, such as quick tests to identify the causes of infections and the need for anti-microbial treatment. Finally, research on vaccines and other preventive measures offer the prospect of blocking the spread of infections thereby reducing the need for anti-microbials.

What are the 15 new EU research projects on anti-microbial resistance about?

Seven of the new projects aim to develop novel antibiotics, vaccines or alternative treatments for drug-resistant microbial infections. Other projects set out to identify better methods to use currently available antibiotics, study antibiotic resistance within the food chain, or utilise novel nano technology for the delivery of anti-microbial drugs. As well as doing much-needed research in this area, the projects will also boost the European economy by directly supporting the work of 44 innovative small- and medium-sized enterprises. A full list of the projects is in a table at the end of this MEMO.

How much has the EU devoted to research in this field?


During the past 16 years, the European Union has invested some €800 million in research and innovation to fight AMR, including the 15 new research projects announced today which the EU supports with more than €90 million.

The rising awareness of the AMR threat is reflected in a six fold increase in the amount being invested, from some €84 million during the EU's 1998-2002 research programme to about €522 million for the 2007-13 period.

Most of the EU investment is used to support collaborative projects i.e. international research and innovation teams involving the most capable players from across Europe and abroad.

In addition, some €100 million of EU funding has been invested alongside contributions from the pharmaceutical industry within the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) public-private partnership, notably through the 'New drugs 4 bad bugs' programme, under which five AMR-related projects have been launched since June 2012.

Has EU AMR-related research had any successes?

EU-funded research has helped to identify promising chemical compounds for future antibiotics; to develop new diagnostic tests; to better understand how microbes and humans interact; to assess antibiotic prescription practices across Europe; and to carry out clinical trials to optimise the use of current antibiotics.

For example, Swiss pharmaceutical group Roche announced plans this month to resume the development of anti-microbial drugs while taking over an experimental drug developed through the EU-funded project NABATIVI by Polyphor AG, a European SME. In other words, EU research investment triggered the development of a novel class of anti-microbial drugs and helped attract a big pharmaceutial company to start again developing antibiotics.

EU-funded researchers in the SONO project have also found a way of using sound waves to apply antibacterial coatings on hospital robes and sheets. The concept has already been proven (and patented) on a lab scale. Once commercialised, the technology should significantly decrease the incidence of potentially life threatening hospital acquired infections.

ERC grantee Craig MacLean at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom is studying ways to slow down the rate of bacterial evolution by recycling drugs rather than just prescribing new ones. In his research, he is combining molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry to examine the ecological and genetic causes of antibiotic resistance.

Under IMI’s New Drugs 4 Bad Bugs programme, the COMBACTE project has established a Europe-wide network of 293 clinical sites with associated laboratories in 34 countries. The project is working to improve clinical trial design, and in 2014 it will start conducting clinical trials with innovative anti-infectious agents developed by the pharmaceutical companies in the project.


Project acronym, full name & link to full project summary including contact persons of all partners Countries of participants Project co-ordinator & main contact e-mail address EU contribution for the project
BELLEROPHONComBinig cELLular and humoral immunE RespOnses as a vaccine strategy against staPHhylOcoccus aureus pathogeN UK (coordinator),FR, CH, DE David Wyllie, University of Oxford [email protected] € 5.498.829
CD-VAXOral Vaccination against Clostridium difficile Infection UK (coordinator),FR, BE, DE Simon Cutting, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College [email protected] € 5.808.756,8
CF MATTERSCystic Fibrosis Microbiome-determined Antibiotic Therapy Trial in Exacerbations: Results Stratified IE (coordinator),UK, FR, US, DE, BE Barry Plant, University College Cork [email protected] € 5.999.748
EFFORTEcology from Farm to Fork Of microbial drug Resistance and Transmission NL (Coordinator),DE, ES, FR, IT, BE, DK, PL, CH, BG, Jaap Wagenaar, Utrecht University, The Netherlands [email protected] €8.999.809
FUNGITECTOptimized Diagnostics for Improved Treatment Stratification in Invasive Fungal Diseases AT (coordinator),DE, BA, CH Thomas Lion, Labdia Labordiagnostik GmbH [email protected] € 5.844.418
FORMAMPInnovative Nanoformulation of Anti-microbial Peptides to Treat Bacterial Infectious Diseases SE (coordinator), DE, NL, FR (2), DK Dr Helena Bysell, SP SVERIGES TEKNISKA FORSKNINGSINSTITUT AB, Sweden [email protected] €7.945.494
NABARSINew AntiBacterials with Inhibitory activity on Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetases NL (coordinator),UK, LV, ES John Hays, Erasmus universitair medisch centrum Rotterdam [email protected] € 4.102.157,5
NAREBNanotherapeutics for antibiotic resistant emerging bacterial pathogens FR (coordinator), NL, UK , ES , PL, DE, BE, NO, IT Prof Brigitte Gicquel, INSTITUT Pasteur, France [email protected] €9.674.158
NeoStrepDevelopment of Group B Streptococcal vaccine to alleviate emerging antibiotic resistance through elimination of current prophylactic antibiotic strategies in GBS prevention SE (coordinator),DK, IE Thomas Areschoug, Lunds Universitet [email protected] € 5.999.172
NOFUNNovel antifungals to treat resistant organisms UK (coordinator),DE, ES, SE Michael Bromley, University of Manchester [email protected] € 4.550.286
MON4STRATTherapeutic Beta-Lactam Monitoring for Stratified Treatment of hospital-acquired pneumonia, improved dose-dependent efficacy, decreased treatment duration, and prevention of emergence of resistance BE (coordinator),FR, ES, US, EE Bernard Joris, Université de Liege [email protected] € 5.988.941
PHAGOBURNEvaluation of phage therapy for the treatment of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa burn wound infections (Phase I / II clinical trial) FR (coordinator),BE, CH Patrick Jault, Ministère de la Défence [email protected] € 3.838.422
PneumoNPNanotherapeutics to treat antibiotic resistant Gram-negative bacteria caused pneumonia Infections ES (coordinator), DK, NL, DE, IT, FR Ms. Aiertza Mentxu,
[email protected] €5.682.351
TAILORED-Treatment Development of tailored anti-microbial treatment regimens and novel host-pathogen insights for respiratory tract infections and sepsis NL (co-ordinator),IL, SE, ES John Hays, Erasmus universitair medisch centrum Rotterdam [email protected] € 5.975.383
THINPADTargeting the HIV-1 Nucleocapsid Protein to fight Antiretroviral Drug Resistance IT (coordinator),ES, FR Maurizio Botta, Universita' degli Studi di Siena [email protected] € 5.691.950

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