How is the MRC involved?
Our strategy for tackling antimicrobial resistance
Tackling antimicrobial resistance is a priority area of research for the MRC as set out in our strategic plan: Research Changes Lives.
The MRC provides the strategic direction and financial support to enable the best research possible to ensure that the dawn of a post-antibiotic world never arrives. We enable researchers in the UK to undertake cutting-edge research, in collaboration with research colleagues across the globe, and to take unique approaches to AMR that will help to improve our understanding of bacterial resistance. Our strategy for tackling AMR focuses on preventing infections, preserving existing antibiotics and promoting the development of new therapies and interventions.
Collaborative working is crucial if we are to successfully solve the challenge of AMR and this is why developing more effective ways of working together, across science disciplines and across international borders, is central to the MRC’s strategy.
To achieve this greater collaboration in tackling AMR the MRC plays a leading role in the following UK and international partnerships:
A forum for funding AMR
To encourage a coordinated approach to tackling AMR, the MRC set up the Antimicrobial Resistance Funders’ Forum (AMRFF) which brings together 21 UK organisations, including the research councils, health departments, governmental bodies and charities, that either provide support for AMR research or have an interest in AMR. The Forum aims to maintain a shared understanding of the output, skills base, resources and impact of AMR research in the UK. Coordination and alignment of research activity adds value by preventing duplication of effort and also helps to identify research gaps for future research activity. The forum also works towards improving the understanding and profile of AMR research in the UK and abroad.
A cross-council priority
To address the opportunities and challenges in tackling the rise in AMR, the seven UK research councils launched the AMR cross-council initiative in 2014. So as to foster collaboration and information-sharing between diverse stakeholders, the initiative is working in four research themes:
- Understanding resistant bacteria
- Accelerating therapeutic and diagnostics development
- Understanding the real-world interactions
- Behaviour within and beyond the healthcare setting
To date, the initiative has awarded over £44m, in collaboration with other funders (the Department of Health and Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs ), in support of 89 research proposals, many with links to industry and policy makers. The initiative is considered by other funders within Europe, India and China as a model of how funders can work successfully together to help address major research and societal problems.
The interdisciplinary research supported by the initiative is critically dependent on excellent discovery research. The UK has world leading bacteriology research, which the MRC supports through grant applications to our Infection and Immunity Board. We also provide support through our fellowships panels, our Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme, and through major strategic investments, such as the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection.
AMR is a global problem and to beat it our research efforts must extend beyond the UK.
The MRC works with other countries to identify research gaps and areas of mutual benefit in tackling AMR. Addressing the global challenge goes beyond the production of new antibiotics and therapies. Reducing demand for new antibiotics through public awareness, infection control, appropriate use of antibiotics in animals and the environment as well as good surveillance are crucial in high, middle or lower income countries.
The MRC proactively helps align international research strategies with our overseas partners through a range of programmes, such as the EU Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance (JPIAMR), or funding opportunities such as the Newton and Global Challenges Research Fund scheme.
Since 2012, the MRC has been representing the UK on the JPIAMR, which is coordinating research across 26 European countries, plus Canada, Israel Argentina, Japan and India, to address AMR at a multinational level. As part of this work, the MRC led a mapping exercise to quantify the scale and scope of publicly funded antibacterial resistance research across JPIAMR countries and at the European Union (EU) level from 2007 to 2013. This has helped us to identify gaps and opportunities and will continue to be used to guide future AMR research.
Watch this video on JPIAMR to learn more about the important work being done by this initiative.
The JPIAMR have also published an engaging video to help explain why beating AMR is so important.
The MRC is a partner in the Newton Fund, a UK Government initiative to strengthen research and innovation partnerships between the UK and emerging knowledge economies to benefit global health.
To date, thanks to the Newton fund partnership, the MRC has funded:
- a call between MRC and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) India in 2015, which supported two Joint Centre partnerships in AMR
- a UK-China AMR partnership, the first cross-council international AMR call supporting six research proposals in 2016
The UK-China call is an excellent example of how international collaborations can deliver impact through the engagement and commitment of partner governments. A research collaboration between Prof Jianzhong Shen of Beijing and Prof Timothy Walsh of Cardiff University, identified the transmission from pigs to men of a newly identified resistance mechanism for colistin (a last resort antibiotic). The research findings were pivotal in the Chinese government banning colistin use in animal production in China, removing c. 8,000 tonnes of colistin use.
The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)
The establishment of the GCRF provides new opportunities for building international research programmes across different research areas, including AMR. The GCRF’s focus on the needs of low and middle income countries (LMICs) complements the MRC’s JPIAMR and Newton activities, in which we have worked predominantly with Higher Income and Middle Income countries respectively, bringing together centres of excellence to understand the complex drivers of antimicrobial resistance which differ from country to country across the globe.