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Commission steps up antibiotics research

The European Commission has launched a five-year action plan against antimicrobial resistance in humans and animals.

The plan includes more EU research into new antimicrobials or alternative treatments, improving surveillance systems, and activities to prevent the misuse of antimicrobials.

“The action plan will be underpinned by a comprehensive package that takes into account all aspects of the drug development process, including the prudent use of existing drugs and new anti-microbials emerging from this initiative,” research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said at a press conference in Brussels on 17 November.

She called on member states to coordinate their research in this field, in particular through a Joint Programming Initiative.

Antimicrobials, better known as antibiotics, are substances that kill and prevent the growth of microorganisms, and are used to fight fungal infections and viruses. If some microorganisms survive treatment, they might become resistant to the antimicrobial, making future treatments difficult and even ineffective.

A total €600 million have been awarded to research projects on antimicrobial resistance under the EU research funding programmes Framework 5, 6 and 7, and the next one, Horizon 2020, will continue to fund research in this area, the research commissioner said.

“There will be new opportunities for collaboration between the Commission and industry building on successes so far, including the Innovative Medicines Initiative,” she said.

Richard Bergström, director general of Efpia, the European federation of pharmaceutical industries in Brussels, welcomed this announcement. “This is very new ground for the industry and over the course of the next few months we will be finalising the details,” he said in a statement.

He added that the EU should modify its legislation on clinical trials on the short term. “Currently, there are too many situations in which it is no longer feasible to conduct trials,” Bergström said.