Collaborative innovation key to tackling antimicrobial resistance


antibiotics are being overprescribed

Imperial's President has warned of the dangers of a post-antibiotics era, while hailing the medical research innovations that are offering hope.

Writing in the Times of India, Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said:

“Medicine is changing. The challenges are greater than ever, but so is our ability to solve them. You can see this in the battle to overcome antimicrobial resistance (AMR).  

Historical common killers like tuberculosis, pneumonia and whooping cough could make a 21st century comeback.

– Professor Alice Gast


“Soon after discovering penicillin in 1928, Imperial College London’s Sir Alexander Fleming warned that over time bacteria would develop resistance to antibiotic therapeutics. He was right.  

“Innovations in antibiotic development in the 1980s and 1990s were too slow, and too few new treatments are being discovered today. There has also been an explosion in the use of antibiotics. Too many of us demand antibiotics from our doctors whenever our children are mildly ill. Farmers are taking the short-term path of using antibiotics to keep animals healthy.  

“The World Health Organization warns of a 'post-antibiotics era'. As my Imperial colleague Professor Alison Holmes says, 'If we don’t address this, infections which were once treatable will become fatal.' Historical common killers like tuberculosis, pneumonia and whooping cough could make a 21st century comeback.  

“Failing to tackle AMR would result in an extra 10 million deaths every year by 2050, according to the UK’s chief medical officer Sally Davies. The economic cost between then and now could be $100 trillion – that’s more than current global GDP.  

“The good news is that Imperial College London academics and students are collaborating like never before to develop solutions. Here, bioengineers, data scientists, electrical engineers, epidemiologists and clinicians are overcoming disciplinary boundaries to understand and fight AMR.  

Synthetic biologist Dr Tom Ellis is developing a ‘warfare system’ where yeast cells are reprogrammed to produce new antibiotics, then grown in the presence of a bacterial cocktail. This allows pharmacologists to design new antibiotic structures that will be effective against resistant bacteria.”

The full piece has been published in print and online by the Times of India.

Imperial's Antimicrobial Research Collaborative (ARC) is a network of researchers, clinicians and healthcare professionals from Imperial’s four faculties, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and industry who have joined forces to address the global threat of AMR.


Andrew Scheuber

Andrew Scheuber
Communications Division

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