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Advances in antimicrobial innovation

Scientific meeting


13:00 - 17:00


This joint Royal Society and Academy of Medical Sciences symposium brought together scientists, medical practitioners and funding bodies to raise awareness and interest for new anti-microbial advances.

A report on the event is available to read (PDF).

Credit: Sasaton Krungsee


Anti-microbial resistance continues to grow as a worldwide health challenge. Pathogens are continually evolving to combat drugs given to treat potentially life-threatening diseases, rendering treatments ineffective and threatening the many advances in fighting microbes over recent decades.

As therapeutics in current use become less effective, new approaches are required. This event aims to raise awareness and interest for new anti-microbial advances, the challenges faced in market delivery, and their appropriate use in healthcare systems.

About the conference series

Supported by AstraZeneca, the meeting will form part of the Royal Society’s Transforming our future conferences in the life sciences, and the Academy of Medical Sciences’ FORUM programme. These meetings are unique, high-level events that address the scientific and technical challenges of the next decade. Each conference features cutting edge science from industry and academia and brings together leading experts from the scientific community, including regulatory, charity and funding bodies.

Event organisers

Select an organiser for more information

Schedule of talks

05 July


Opening Keynotes

2 talks Show detail Hide detail

Antimicrobial Optimisation: Research Priorities, Advances in Innovation and Lessons from COVID-19

Professor Alison Holmes OBE FMedSci, Professor of Infectious Diseases, Imperial College London

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The future of AMR reimbursement: What types of products will succeed?

Dr John H. Rex, Chief Medical Officer, F2G Ltd.


Companies successfully developing new antibiotics have collapsed after achieving approval due to the market failure that faces new antibiotics. This problem has been recognized and reimbursements that reflect the societal value of new antibiotics are coming. But, not all new antibiotics will earn a strong reward. Importantly, it is possible to Judge the likely value of a given project (e.g., the project you are working on right now!) and this talk will cover current insights on the future of AMR reimbursement.

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Novel research and approaches

5 talks Show detail Hide detail

The phage approach

Dr Heather Fairhead, CEO, Phico Therapeutics



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Mining biosynthetic pathways for new antibiotics

Professor Gerard Wright, DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, McMaster University


One of the impediments to returning to microbial natural products as sources for leads for new antimicrobials is the rediscovery of known compounds when using traditional phenotypic extract screens. With the availability of thousands of microbial genome sequences, we now understand that such an approach does not comprehensively sample the potential of most microbes to produce new compounds. By directly exploring microbial genomes and identifying biosynthetic programs that have not yet been fully explored for their antibiotic potential, it is possible to select organisms and pathways that are likely to yield novel chemistry and antimicrobial activity. Coupled with synthetic biology tools to focus on these pathways, new antibiotics can be discovered. An example of our recent work using this genomes fist strategy coupled with a phylogenomic filter will be presented with a focus on new inhibitors of the ClpP protease.

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How can novel clinical trial designs address challenges in evaluating antimicrobials for multi-drug resistant organisms?

Professor Ann Sarah Walker FMedSci, Professor of Medical Statistics & Epidemiology, University College London


The paradigm of evidence-based medicine has been to optimise outcomes by iteratively improving a "standard-of-care" (SOC) regimen, which forms the basis for comparison with new interventions. Platform trials generally still follow this paradigm, comparing multiple new interventions to SOC, but speed up drug development by doing this simultaneously. However, this paradigm poses multiple challenges for antimicrobials, in particular the absence of a clear SOC, with large numbers of antimicrobials with a week evidence base supporting their use. A single SOC will drive resistance, supporting diversity in prescribing – but comparisons vs different "SOC" require multiple large non-inferiority trials which are simply infeasible. I will review two recent developments in trial design which could be exploited to address these challenges, and highlight the considerable challenges that still remain.

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Innovation in Point of Care Diagnostics

Dr Tina Joshi, Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology, Faculty of Health, University of Plymouth


AntiMicrobial resistance is a serious healthcare challenge, and it is estimated that drug resistant microbes will kill 10 million people worldwide per year by 2050. This has led researchers and governments to accelerate AMR research globally, primarily focusing on antimicrobial drug discovery to increase our arsenal of antimicrobials and preserve our working antimicrobials. Diagnostics have been highlighted in several reports as a key way of reducing overuse of antimicrobials in practice and encouraging rationalisation of antimicrobial prescribing. However, despite this, development of innovative diagnostic solutions has been overlooked and underfunded, likely due to the "blue sky" nature of this type of research. Dr Joshi’s research focusses on innovative, interdisciplinary solutions for diagnosis of AMR infections at point of care. This talk will focus on AMR, links to Climate change and the importance of encouraging and investing in new, feasible, long term approaches to tackle AMR.

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New methods of evaluating antimicrobials

Professor Colm Leonard, Consultant Clinical Advisor, NICE

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Panel discussion: Challenges of prescribing, diagnostics and antibiotic education, investment and building a business model for new antibiotics

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Dr Flic Gabbay FMedSci, Managing Partner, tranScrip

Dr Erin Duffy, Chief of Research & Development, CARB-X, Boston University School of Law
Dr Adam Zerda, Director AMR Strategy and Development, Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD)
Dr Michael Gutch, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Business Officer, Entasis Therapeutics
Professor Angharad Davies, Swansea University Medical School/Vice-President for Learning, Royal College of Pathologists

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Closing Keynote

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Innovating to secure the future of modern medicine

Professor Dame Sally Davies, UK Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance, UK Government


Antibiotics are essential infrastructure for our health systems. But declining R&D into new antibiotics compounded by increasing shortages of existing generics, has left fewer drugs left in our medicine cabinet. Meanwhile, our existing drugs are no match for superbugs. This lack of innovation compromises access for patients, and undermines modern medicine for every country. Working together, in the context of drug development, and to change the politics around it, must happen across countries and across sectors. To turn the tide on the slow pandemic of AMR, we need to bring research, development, policy and politics together, with stewardship, access and innovation at the heart. Dame Sally Davies will reflect on key global advances in antibiotic innovation, and what the world still needs to do to win the war against superbugs.

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Related events

Advances in antimicrobial innovation

This Royal Society conference will bring together scientists, medical practitioners and funding bodies to raise awareness and interest for new anti-microbial advances.

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