The Skolkovo Foundation has joined forces with the U.K.’s AMR Centre, a private-public initiative launched in 2016 to support and accelerate the development of new antibiotics, to combat the global problem of antimicrobial resistance.
Skolkovo's Kirill Kaem (left) speaks at the U.K.-Russia Healthcare & Life Sciences Forum in Moscow. Photo: U.K. Department of International Trade.
The two sides announced a formal agreement on Thursday to work in partnership to identify opportunities for joint U.K.-Russian funding to support collaborative projects between organisations in both countries.
The agreement, announced during the Genesis Conference in London, and also at the U.K.-Russia Healthcare & Life Sciences Forum in Moscow, will see the AMRC provide support to Skolkovo-based SMEs for the pre-clinical development of new therapies and diagnostics for AMR.
The centre will offer assistance in the form of R&D expertise and help with funding applications, including applications for international funding from its alliance partner, CARB-X, a $400m global initiative backed by the U.S. government and the U.K. charity the Wellcome Trust.
“AMR is a very serious issue in Russia and we are pleased to be able to collaborate with Russian companies working in this field and offer our assistance and advice with funding and clinical expertise,” said Dr. Peter Jackson, executive director of the AMRC.
“There is a deep well of scientific resource in Russia which can be directed at this challenge and we will use our knowledge and contacts to help coordinate activity and bring on projects which might not otherwise progress,” he said.
2017 marks the UK-Russia Year of Science and Education, which is intended to stimulate further scientific collaboration between the two countries and is supported by the U.K. Science and Innovation Network at the British Embassy in Moscow.
“The discovery of antibiotics was one of the world’s main scientific breakthroughs in the middle of the 20th century. However, nowadays the antibiotic resistance situation is very complicated,” said Kirill Kaem, senior vice president for innovations of the Skolkovo Foundation.
“Out of our 430 biomedical startups, Skolkovo’s project portfolio includes only a few companies that are developing new antibiotics or diagnostic solutions in this therapeutic area and we would like to have more. For Skolkovo startups, it will be a great honour to start collaboration with AMRC as a scientific and advisory R&D centre in antibiotic resistance. This partnership is an opportunity for innovative Russian companies to become a part of international research programmes, and fight the global problem of antimicrobial resistance.”
Dr. Jackson said the situation was complex, and based on a growing drug resistance and a dwindling supply of effective antibiotics.
The nature of the crisis and progress in tackling the issues vary around the world, he said, and touches on issues such as drug-prescribing habits, use of antibiotics in animal health and the ability to reduce the potential for bacterial infection in hospitals.
“What doesn’t vary is the desperate need for innovation, for programmes that investigate ways of getting us out of what is a problem that already claims 700,000 lives a year and is likely to escalate to a level that will have drastic impacts on public health the world over,” said Dr. Jackson.
Lord Jim O’Neill, author of a landmark AMR review commissioned by the U.K. government to quantify the potential impact of AMR and the issues underlying the crisis, welcomed the news of the partnership.
“International collaboration on AMR is crucial,” he said. “As I have often said, the U.K. can do all the right things necessary, but unless other countries do the same, then U.K. citizens are still vulnerable as a result of international travel, and connectivity between humans and animals.
“In addition, involvement of the so-called BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is especially important due to the interplay between AMR and infectious diseases such as TB. It is therefore really good to see this planned joint collaboration between the centre and Russia,” said Lord O’Neill.
Skolkovo presented a report into AMR titled “Innovation in Fighting Infectious Diseases. New Antibiotics” in collaboration with the AMRC back in October at the Open Innovations forum.