The head of the UK’s government review into  antimicrobial resistance has told PharmaTimes that an innovation fund of around $2 billion is needed to speed development of new drugs.

Speaking at The Economist Pharma Summit, Jim O’Neill, the ex-Goldman Sachs chief economist appointed last summer by David Cameron to lead a review into AMR, reiterated his view that public and charitable groups should create a fund to help research. When asked by PharmaTimes about the amount of cash required, he said “we've not yet come up with a number…but my guess is probably no more than $2 billion”.


Mr O’Neill argued that given the alternative if nothing is done – $100 trillion in lost productivity by 2050 and ten million lives lost every year –  the cash for the innovation fund “is kind of peanuts”. He added that any fund would have to be global in nature, saying “there is no chance of tackling AMR if the BRICs (the acronym Mr O’Neill coined for Brazil, Russia, India and China) are not on board”.

When asked by PharmaTimes whether drugmakers would contribute, Mr O’Neill said that the industry collectively depends on support from policymakers in buying its products and also in terms of “taxation treatment”. It therefore makes sense to adopt “enlightened self-interest”, he added, saying pharma “lives on the same lane as the rest of us” AMR will ravage rich and poor alike.

He went on to say that the pharmaceutical industry is once again looking at antibiotics as an option to invest its R&D dollars, citing Merck & Co’s recent acquisition of Cubist. Mr O’Neill added that as well as getting the most out of existing antibiotics and having better diagnostics, it is important to incentivise post-graduates to specialise in AMR, as it has not seen as “a lucrative or an exciting thing to do”.