Less than 1% of UK public research funding spent on antibiotic research in past 5 years

Posted on Friday 25th July 2014

Less than 1% of research funding awarded by public and charitable bodies to UK researchers in 2008–13 was awarded for research on antibiotics, according to new research published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases

The study, which is the first detailed assessment of public and charitable funding to UK researchers focusing on bacteriology and antibiotic research, suggests that present levels of funding for antibiotic research in the UK are inadequate, and will need to be urgently increased if the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance is to be tackled effectively.

According to lead author Professor Laura Piddock, of the University of Birmingham, “The message that antibacterial (ie, antibiotic) drug resistance has become a world health crisis has been brought to global attention by WHO, the European Union (EU), the World Economic Forum, and, most recently, the UK Chief Medical Officer.  As a world leader in biomedical research, UK research has an important part to play in tackling this crisis.  However, our study clearly shows that the proportion of public and charitable funding for research into new antibiotics, understanding resistance mechanisms and ways of tackling resistance are inadequate for the size of the task.”*

Professor Piddock and her colleague analysed funding databases for the UK’s main research funding organisations [1], finding that of £13·8 billion total available research funding, £269 million (1·9%) was awarded to bacteriology projects, and around a third of this (£95 million or 0·7% of total funding) was awarded for research on antibiotics. Additionally, £181 million in EU funding was awarded to antibiotic research consortia including researchers based within the UK, including two EU Innovative Medicines Initiative awards, totalling £85 million.

While this article focused exclusively on research funding for antibiotics, previous studies have shown that funding for other antimicrobials (antifungals and antivirals) is similarly low as a proportion of total funding.

As well as demonstrating that the proportion of research funding given for UK antibiotic research will need to increase, the authors suggest that publically available, subject-specific, funding databases will allow investment in priority areas to be tracked in future. 

“Since 2011, most new EU funding has focused on public–private partnerships with industry”, adds Professor Piddock. “However, an increased understanding about antibiotic resistance is needed, not least to inform strategies to both minimise and prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria arising when new treatments become available.”

Ends.

Notes to editors

  • The study was funded by the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
  • * Quote direct from author and cannot be found in text of Article.
  • [1] The funding organisations included in the study were: Medical Research Council (MRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Wellcome Trust, Technology Strategy Board (TSB), British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC), Healthcare Infection Society (HIS), The Royal Society, Action Medical Research, the European Commission FP7, and the EU IMI.
  • Article: Professor Laura Piddock, School of Immunity and Infection, and Institute of Microbiology and Infection, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK.  
  • For further information opr to request an interview with Professor Piddock please contact Laura Piddock or Luke Harrison in the University of Birmingham Press Office on +44 (0)121 414 5134. For out of office enquiries please contact the press office on +44 (0)7789921165