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Reports and statements Biosciences

Antimicrobial drug discovery: greater steps ahead


Infectious diseases account for a substantial proportion of deaths worldwide. Continuing progress in the treatment of many infections is threatened by the growing resistance of pathogens to antimicrobial drugs. For example, in the European Union (EU) it is estimated that 25,000 people die annually of sepsis caused by resistant bacteria. The epidemiology of resistance is complex but the problem is compounded by recent lack of success in developing novel antibiotic classes.

In this Statement, EASAC builds on a long-standing interest in the opportunities and challenges associated with tackling infectious diseases to re-examine the current situation, to consider how to search for new scientific directions for antimicrobial innovation and to remove impediments in translating research advances to drug development. In March 2014, EASAC, together with its member academies in Germany and the Netherlands, organised a meeting in Hannover to explore new paths in antibiotic research. Among key topics elucidated and exemplified were the following:

  • How can we learn from previous examples of success, and lack of success, in antibiotic research and development?
  • What are the functions of antibiotics in their natural environments?
  • What are the opportunities for novel approaches to tackling pathogens, for example based on virulence modulation or immune stimulation?
  • How might pathogen-specific pathways be influenced?
  • Can host cell targets be found that inhibit intracellular bacterial infection?
  • Are there new sources of antimicrobial compounds and delivery systems that can capitalise on emerging technologies?

There was consensus among the participants at the meeting on the urgency to develop critical mass to support and generate good new science, to dismantle the bureaucratic obstacles to using the outputs from that science and to ensure that innovation can be sustained in the longer term.

The Statement concludes that much needs to be done to enhance antibiotic innovation: to define and validate better targets, to ensure high-quality clinical research facilities, to streamline regulation and to tackle the market problems so that companies are attracted back into the therapeutic area.

The Statement's launch on the EASAC website on 1 October 2014 coincides with a comment piece by EASAC President Jos van der Meer et al. in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.

Panel Discussion

A discussion event on "Antimicrobial Drug Discovery" will take place on Wednesday, 3 December 2014 at the Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium in Brussels.

A Draft Agenda for the event can be downloaded here.

Please register for the event here.

Download a Summary of the event here.

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