AstraZeneca joins NewDrugs4BadBugs research programme

Dr John Rex


Today we have a guest blog post from Dr John Rex, VP Clinical Infection at AstraZeneca. John’s post is on the heels of today’s news about the Innovative Medicines Initiative’s NewDrugs4BadBugs programme. The programme will bring big pharmas together to share their research in the fight against infection.

The increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a growing problem and global health issue. Seventy years ago the discovery of antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial infections seemed like a solved problem. Since then the causative bacteria have found new ways of resisting antibiotic treatments, evolving and adapting to survive.

We not only need effective antibiotics to treat infectious disease, we need them for an array of other medical procedures. Much of modern medical care — joint replacement, care of a premature infant, treatment of cancer — is simply not possible without effective antibiotics.

I have been working in the field of antibiotic research for over 20 years. The scientific and economic challenges of this work have led many large pharmaceutical companies to abandon this field of research and AstraZeneca is among the few large pharmas still committed to investigating novel antibiotics. However, with no major advancements in recent years, the treatment of infection is going through something of a global crisis. Paired with the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, it has led us to think differently about the way we tackle this problem.

Today, after years of discussion and effort between the EU and industry, the NewDrugs4BadBugs research programme has finally become a reality. While NewDrugs4BadBugs might sound like a light-hearted title, the threat from antimicrobial resistance is deadly serious. This Innovative Medicines Initiative programme aims to address some of the key barriers to the development and delivery of effective antibiotics. This will be a pioneering approach to antibiotic research in Europe that will see a wide group of experts brought together, sharing an unprecedented level of data and information, to address this global threat to patient health.

I see this programme as following a three-stage approach – to improve the understanding of antimicrobial resistance, design and implement efficient clinical trials, and finally, take novel drug candidates through clinical development.


“The scientific and economic challenges of this work have led many large pharmaceutical companies to abandon this field of research…”


We will work with GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Sanofi and Basilea, alongside public research organisations and other scientific experts. We have a real opportunity here to take advantage of the resources, expertise and scientific innovation that the Innovative Medicines Initiative has brought together.

We plan to progress the development of new drugs for the treatment of bacterial infection through fresh research that will support antibiotics already under investigation. For example, and pending the results of current work, AstraZeneca’s investigational monoclonal antibody, MEDI4893, may be included in the research programme. This is currently in late-stage preclinical development and works to target a toxin released by Staphylococcus aureus. Again depending on the results of current work, AZD9773, an investigational treatment for severe sepsis and septic shock, conditions triggered by uncontrolled bacterial infection may also be included in the program.


“I am personally excited about the potential of this latest collaboration we are involved in at AstraZeneca.”


I believe the key factor to the success of this collaboration is the data and knowledge sharing. A new ‘Information hub’ is being created to allow the sharing between both the partners and across the wider antibiotic research community, helping us to learn from the antibiotic development efforts of others. As in many things, we can often learn more from our failures than our successes. While the projects that do well are celebrated, published, and presented, this partnership gives an opportunity to provide each other with details of what does NOT seem to work, which will help foster a shared and improved understanding of the science behind antibiotic resistance. It will also minimise any potential inefficiencies in future R&amp,D, supporting the accelerated delivery of new medicines for patients.

I am personally excited about the potential of this latest collaboration we are involved in at AstraZeneca. With the amount of challenges we face in treating disease globally, we constantly need to evolve our treatments and find innovative ways of carrying out research, which is exactly what this programme will offer.

Click play below to watch AstraZeneca’s Dr John Rex talks about the discovery of antibiotics.


About the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI):

The Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking (IMI JU) is a unique pan-European public private partnership between the European Commission and EFPIA (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations) driving collaboration between all relevant stakeholders including large and small biopharmaceutical and healthcare companies, regulators, academia, and patients.

The aim of IMI is to propose a coordinated approach to overcome identified research bottlenecks in the drug development process, in order to accelerate the development of safe and more effective medicines for patients, by fostering collaboration between all stakeholders such as industry, public authorities (including regulators), organisations of patients, academia and clinical centres, and enhancing Europe’s competitiveness.

About AstraZeneca:

AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business with a primary focus on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines for gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neuroscience, respiratory and inflammation, oncology and infectious disease. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. For more information please visit:

For the official press release by AstraZeneca on this initiative please click here.

How can initiatives like NewDrugs4BadBugs help progress pharma research?