Funding for antibiotic research in UK may be trailing behind resistance

1. Out of £13.8 billion in total available research funding in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2008-2013, 0.7% (£95.0 million) of total funding was allocated to projects pertaining to antibiotic research. 

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)       

Study Rundown: The rate of evolution of resistant bacteria has increased more quickly than the rate of discovery of new antibiotics with which to combat them. New antibiotics are desperately needed to battle newly resistant pathogens. This study aimed to assess whether available funding for antibiotic research in the UK has increased enough to adequately respond to this demand. Databases of agencies providing research funding in the UK were systematically searched to identify charitably and publicly funded antibiotic projects from 2008 to 2013.

This study found that of the total available research funding in the UK, bacteriology projects received 1.9% of total funding, while antibiotic research composed nearly one-third of the projects within the specialty of bacteriology or 0.7% of the total funding. Though this study provided the first assessment of charitable and public funding for bacteriology and antibiotic research in the UK, accuracy may have been compromised by reliance upon original data from the funding organizations. Based on these findings, the authors of the study suggest that current funding levels may not be enough to combat the current burden of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

This study was funded by the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

Click to read the study, published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases

Relevant Reading: Outpatient antibiotic use in Europe and association with resistance: a cross-national database study

In-Depth: This study analyzed data from major UK funding organizations, the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) from the European Commission, and the European Union Innovative Medicines Initiative (EU IMI) to investigate the proportion of funding provided for antibiotic research from 2008-13. Research topics were categorized as: (1) tuberculosis; (2) antibiotic discovery, research and development, and mechanisms of action; (3) understanding antibiotic resistance; or (4) epidemiology of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in human being or animals. Funding data was analyzed in terms of grant value, number of grants awarded, and percentage of total grants awarded. Grants awarded in euros were converted to pounds sterling (€1=£0·86, as of Aug 20, 2013).

Of 609 projects within the specialty of bacteriology, 196 (32.2%) specifically funded antibiotic research. Out of £13.8 billion in total available research funding in the UK, £269.2 million (1.9%) funded bacteriology projects and £95.0 million (0.7%) funded antimicrobial resistance research. The Wellcome Trust provided the greatest amount of funding (£38.2 million) towards antibiotic research, whereas the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council supported the greatest number (53) of antibiotic research projects. Smaller organizations contributed a larger percentage of their total grant funding to antibiotic research, with the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy contributing the greatest percentage (80.4%, £510,064). Additionally, £181.4 million in EU funding was awarded to antibiotic research consortia based in the UK, including £96.2 million from the FP7 program and £85.2 from the EU IMI.

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