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UK and China team up on superbug research

21 Oct 2015

The Medical Research Council (MRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) are joining forces with the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) to establish a joint fund of £9 million to support research on Antimicrobial Resistance, the Minister of Life Sciences George Freeman announced today. The announcement is part of the UK-China Business Forum.

The UK contribution (£4.5million) will be channelled through the Newton Fund, an initiative launched in April 2014 intended to strengthen research and innovation partnerships between the UK and emerging knowledge economies. The Chinese government will be providing matched funding to support internationally competitive and innovative collaborative projects between researchers from China and the UK.

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a huge and complex problem for healthcare and agriculture. Antibiotic overuse and misuse – in agriculture and human medicine – has led to a growing number of bacteria in humans, animals and the environment that are resistant to them. Drug resistant infections will kill an extra 10 million people a year worldwide - more than currently die from cancer – and cost the global economy up to  $100tn (£64tn) by 2050, unless action is taken. In China, by 2050 as many as 1 million people a year could die because of AMR. The cumulative economic cost would be $20 trillion - equivalent to two years of current Chinese output.

A workshop led by the funding agencies is planned 24-26 November 2015 in Shanghai, China, to further understanding of the antibacterial resistance research landscape within the two countries and to explore four core themes that will provide the backdrop of the fund.

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP said:

“Antimicrobial Resistance is a major threat to millions of lives around the world. This £9 million joint investment will help leading scientists in the UK and China share expertise and innovations to develop new treatments that could help eradicate this threat to global public health.”

Professor Lu Rongkai, Deputy Director General of the Bureau of International Cooperation, NSFC, said:

“The increasing threat posed by Antimicrobial Resistance is an international issue that requires much deeper understanding, which will only be achieved through an interdisciplinary approach. As such, this is a key area to be supported by NSFC’s on-going collaboration with the Research Councils. It is essential that China and the UK work together to tackle this complex, global challenge.”

Dr Mark Palmer MRC Director of International Strategy said:

“We know diseases don’t recognise international borders and that addressing health problems around the world demands a global response. This exciting partnership between leading scientists in China and the UK is a key part of our international effort to pool expertise and resources and deliver research that will make a real difference to global health.”

This cross-Council collaboration with NSFC has been facilitated by the Research Councils UK China office based in Beijing.

The Newton Fund is an initiative which enables the UK to use its strength in research and innovation to promote the economic development and social welfare of 15 partner countries. The Fund will help countries that are rapidly improving their own scientific capability and will help to unlock further opportunities for science and innovation collaboration.

The Fund forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment which is monitored by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). ODA funded activity focuses on outcomes that promote the long-term sustainable growth of countries on the OECD Development Assistance Committee list. Newton Fund countries represent a sub-set of this list.

The Newton Fund requires that the funding be awarded in a manner that fits with Official Development Assistance (ODA) guidelines.

Chinese and British flags flying over London. Tristam Sparks. Copyright Flickr 2015


  • Categories: Funding
  • Health categories: Infection
  • Strategic objectives: Natural protection, Repair and replacement, Lifestyles affecting health, Environment and health, International partnerships and shaping the agenda, Global health, Aim: Going global
  • Locations: Other
  • Type: News article