Newly anointed Universities and Science Minister Greg Clark has hit the ground running announcing a new 'war cabinet' of the UK's seven research councils to lead the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

Making his first announcement in the role just two days after Prime Minister David Cameron's cabinet reshuffle saw the resignation of predecessor David Willetts, he unveiled a united strategy for gathering research that should drive forward important advances in the field.

The cross-council initiative will coordinate the work of medical researchers, biologists, engineers, vets, economists, social scientists, mathematicians and even designers, in a multi-pronged approach designed to tackle the wide-ranging aspects of antibiotics problem.

Dried up pipeline

According to the Medical Research Council, which will lead the initiative, in the UK alone around £275 million has been spent on antimicrobial resistance since 2007 but to no avail, with no new class of antibiotics discovered since 1987, and as the situation stands our current arsenal will be rendered "all but useless within the next two decades", bringing medicine back to the dark ages.

Crucially, the initiative will focus identifying the characteristics of antimicrobial resistance in both humans and in farm and wild animals to help revive the pipeline, as well as looking at how to track its extent across different environments (the sea, rivers, air, soil and in organisms, as well as in food, homes and hospitals.)

Mutli-pronged approach

"This is about tackling the problem at every level and in every environment – from labs to livestock, from finding new diagnostic tools to educating professionals and the public," said Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the MRC. "One hundred years ago 25% of all deaths were due to bacterial infection. We cannot return to those days," he warned.

Last week's damning Science and Technology Committee report on antimicrobials stressed that collaboration between different areas of research is critical in addressing the problem, while Cameron has also launched a review into antimicrobial resistance including looking at how to encourage the development of new antibiotics.