Increasingly, bacteria, parasites, viruses and other disease-causing microorganisms are becoming resistant to the drugs we have available. However, no new classes of antibiotics have come on the market for more than 25 years, and the drugs we do have are over-prescribed. Resistance to front-line drugs for malaria and HIV is spreading, potentially putting millions of lives at risk in South-east Asia and Africa.
The Wellcome Trust will collaborate with the UK Government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Institut Pasteur International Network and other partners over the next five years to build laboratory capacity, surveillance networks and response capacity in low- and middle-income countries.
The Fleming Fund has been developed partly in response to the initial recommendations of the independent Review on Antimicrobial Resistance led by economist Jim O'Neill, which is looking broadly at the economic priorities needed to tackle drug-resistant infection. The Review is co-funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Health.
Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "In our interconnected world drug-resistant infection is a threat to us all, and increasingly driving a global health crisis. Without effective drugs to kill bacteria, viruses and parasites, much of modern medicine is rendered impossible – from cancer treatment to hip replacements.
"Drug-resistant infection is not a problem that can be solved by any one country or system alone and we are delighted that the UK is taking such a global leadership role through Jim O'Neill's review and now the Fleming Fund. These will be crucial to the future control of drug resistance and we look forward to working with the UK Government and partners."
Chief Medical Officer Prof Dame Sally Davies said: "The Ebola outbreak has proved that infectious diseases do not respect international borders. We must act globally to make sure information is shared, and speedy effective action is taken, to help stop deadly diseases in their tracks. Similarly with antimicrobial resistance, we must act now, collectively, or face the end to modern medicine as we know it. The £195 million announced today will be a crucial part of this, by creating a world-wide network of labs to monitor trends in resistance, and see where the main issues lie. This is vital information which is currently missing from our global battle."
In the last 10 years the Wellcome Trust has spent more than £200 million on research to tackle antimicrobial resistance, including developing new drugs, basic research, and surveillance.