Overcoming AMR market failure: Three start-up stories

Market Access
pop art medicines

Slowly but surely, the world’s antibiotics are becoming less effective as disease-causing bacteria evolve into drug-resistant “superbugs”. The crisis is inevitable, but there’s little short-term financial incentive to develop new antibiotics: Drug companies would have to spend significant money to develop the drugs, and they might never recoup it, since the price point for antibiotics is so low and the existing drugs still work – until they don’t.

This isn’t a hypothetical problem. The last five years have seen a number of small biotechs try to make it in this space only to declare bankruptcy, their novel drugs fading into obscurity. Big pharma, meanwhile, mostly avoids the space for similar reasons.

Where the free market fails, governments and non-profits step in, and this is where the bulk of AMR work is being done. The pharma-supported billion-dollar AMR Action Fund and the CARB-X accelerator dominate non-profit investment.

In the US, government investment is coming from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID, a division of the National Institutes of Health), while the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the Department of Defense are interested in new antibiotics for battlefield medicine. Elsewhere in the world, the governments of Germany and the UK are some of those taking the threat most seriously, with the UK putting into action a plan to change the way the NHS pays for antibiotics.

But entrepreneurs are a tenacious bunch. Tell them something will never pay, and at least a few of them will try to prove you wrong. Deep Dive talked with the leaders of three start-ups tackling antimicrobial resistance in their own ways.

Read the full article in pharmaphorum's Deep Dive digital magazine