Funding critical in global AMR fight say UK experts

An expert panel has concluded that investment will be vital if the UK is to lead the world in its efforts to tackle a medical risk which costs 5 million lives a year.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses a major threat to human health, contributing to almost 5 million deaths worldwide in 2019 alone. Bioscience research and innovation has the potential to play a vital role in addressing this global threat.

As the UK’s major public funder of bioscience research, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests around £30 million each year in AMR research. The Panel concluded that BBSRC’s investments are “likely to be critical” in realising the UK’s 20-year vision for tackling antimicrobial resistance.

Throughout 2021 and 2022, the panel of independent experts conducted a rigorous evaluation of BBSRC’s investments in AMR research to assess its effectiveness and impact.

Comprising of individuals from the BBSRC community, industry and specialists with expertise of relevance to AMR research, the panel focused their evaluation on 4 key areas:

  • new knowledge and understanding
  • economic and societal impact
  • knowledge exchange and supporting stakeholder needs
  • BBSRC’s support for AMR research

The evaluation panel concluded that BBSRC’s AMR investments have supported high-quality, internationally leading research.

As well as contributing to a variety of discoveries, BBSRC’s investments have unlocked “new knowledge with the potential to underpin future advances addressing the challenges associated with AMR”.

The independent panel concluded that BBSRC’s investments are “likely to be critical in enabling the UK to realise its 20-year vision for tackling AMR”.

It found 52% of BBSRC grant holders indicated a successful or very successful contribution to at least 1 strategic objective from the UK 5-year action plan for AMR. In all 8% of grants reported new intellectual property, and 11% demonstrated an influence on policy and practice.

That said, the panel added there is room for improvement. To ensure future AMR investments realise their full potential, the panel added BBSRC should seek to:

  • increase engagement between academics, industry, policymakers and practitioners
  • improve grant holder awareness of wider government strategic drivers in addressing AMR and how their research can contribute
  • improve levels of translation across the AMR portfolio
  • foster closer working across UK Research and Innovation to maximise potential to deliver economic and societal impact

Collaboration and partnerships are mission critical in tackling AMR and this was highlighted as an area of strength for BBSRC.

“To fully realise the ambition set out in the UK’s 20-year vision for tackling AMR, BBSRC must continue to work hand in hand with its national and international partners. BBSRC must work across sectors to ensure the effective translation of AMR research into wider impacts and benefits,” the panel concluded.

Professor Melanie Welham, executive chair at BBSRC, said: “I would like to thank Professor Paul Hoskisson and his expert review panel for their dedication to task in evaluating BBSRC’s investments in AMR research.

“This full and thorough evaluation is critical for BBSRC in ensuring our future strategic investments realise their full potential in tackling the major challenge that antimicrobial resistance presents.”