The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Boston University School of Law, and the UK-based Wellcome Trust and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Centre have announced a $350 million public-private partnership to accelerate the development of new antibiotics and rapid diagnostics.
Headquartered at BU Law, the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) hopes to build a portfolio of more than twenty high-quality antimicrobial products — drugs as well as rapid diagnostic tests and vaccines designed to reduce the misuse of antibiotics. HHS' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will award $30 million in grants to CARB-X during its first year of operation and up to $250 million over five years, while the AMR Centre, a UK-government-sponsored public-private initiative, will provide an additional $14 million and up to $100 million over five years. The Wellcome Trust, which made drug-resistant infections one of its priority areas after a strategic review last year, has pledged to contribute additional funding.
The partnership grew out of the Obama administration's 2015 Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB) initiative and will focus on Gram-negative bacteria that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has classified as an "urgent" or "serious" threat and which are increasingly resistant to most available antibiotics. Other partners in the project include the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, RTI International, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and the California Life Sciences Institute.
"The bulk of the money will go to research labs and small companies developing innovative products all over the world," said CARB-X executive director Kevin Outterson, who co-directs BU Law's health law program. "We will fund the best science, wherever found. The goal is to invest money so that the products society needs will be ready in a decade. This is a social investment. We're trying to build a fire station before the buildings catch on fire."
"Drug-resistant infections are already costing lives all over the world," said Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar. "A problem of this scale can only be tackled through coordinated international effort to curb our massive overuse of existing antibiotics, and to accelerate the development of new ones."