Speech: Imperial College AMR Summit 2019

As Minister responsible for innovation and AMR, I was delighted when Professor Holmes asked me to make the opening remarks at this summit.

AMR is one of the most pressing global challenges we face this century. Here in the UK, we are leading the world, and can boast many of the world’s leading experts, researchers and innovators in the field.

In particular, I would like to thank Professor Holmes for the great work that she does in supporting our national plans and continuing to be at the fore in driving innovation that will help us address this wicked problem.

It is fantastic that so many of you have come here today to see how we might harness emerging new technologies to prevent infection and tackle AMR.

Successes 2013-2018

The UK can note many significant achievements over the life of our 2013-2018 AMR strategy:

· We have developed one of the most comprehensive human and animal health surveillance systems in the world.

· Use of antibiotics in humans decreased by over 7%, supported by awareness campaigns such as “Keep Antibiotics Working” and the e-Bug initiative in schools.

· Sales of antibiotics for use in the livestock sector dropped by a substantial 40.

· And we have seen unprecedented levels of research collaboration and increased investment of over £350million.

UK vision and national action plan

But, despite our many successes, drug-resistant infections in humans have increased by 35%. Resistant infections are already estimated to contribute to over 2,000 deaths in this country each year – and 70,000 deaths a year globally. Clearly, more needs to be done.

And AMR will not be solved quickly. It requires sustained, coordinated action across all sectors, all over the world.

It is for this reason that - In January this year - the UK government published its longer-term vision for AMR, accompanied by a national action plan that sets challenging five-year ambitions that will begin to fulfil that vision.

Our vision is for a world in which AMR is contained and controlled by 2040.

We will continue to take a comprehensive One-health approach across humans, animals, agriculture the environment and food and, in the UK, we will contribute to the global effort through:

· a lower burden of infection and better treatment of resistant infection

· optimised use of antimicrobials with good stewardship across all sectors

· and new diagnostics, therapies, vaccines and interventions in use and accessed by all.

We will also play our part by modelling best practice at home, supporting progress internationally, and continue to use UK Aid to support low- and middle-income countries’ efforts – including Global AMR Innovation Fund (GAMRIF) to support early-stage innovative research in underfunded areas of AMR research and development.

Progress – Testing Innovative Models for Purchasing

Having a full antimicrobial pipeline is critical in our efforts to address AMR, and currently not enough pharmaceutical companies are investing in the development of new antimicrobials.

When the Health and Social Care Secretary launched the vision and national action plan in January, he called on the pharmaceutical industry to do more.

He also announced what we intend to do to address this issue. He made the commitment to lead the way in developing and testing a new model that pays companies for antibiotics based primarily on a health technology assessment of their value to the NHS, as opposed to the volumes used.

This is truly world-leading and ambitious work and I am delighted to say that NICE, and NHS England & NHS improvement have formally launched that project today.

Professor Steve Powis and Sir Andrew Dillon have today issued a joint statement signalling the start of a

period of targeted engagement with industry, experts and stakeholders. They also call on companies to identify candidate products for consideration for inclusion in the topic selection stage of the test.

While this project is an important step, it will only address global market failure if other countries do the same or similar. We want to involve as many countries as we can and share the emerging learning from this work.

We want to send a signal to the rest of the world that there are workable models to stimulate investment in these vital medicines.

Progress – Infection Prevention Interventions

It is essential that those that require antibiotics have access to them. At the same time, we know that infectious diseases drive the use of antibiotics, and the use of antibiotics drives resistance. Our efforts to tackle resistance must include ramped-up efforts for infection prevention.

Our national action plan will see at least 15,000 fewer UK patients affected by healthcare associated infections each year by 2024, and 5,000 fewer drug resistant.

These are challenging ambitions and we need to improve the evidence base for interventions that target Gram-negative organisms as a priority; this must include how we use the built environment to minimise the spread of infection.

Last month we announced the award of £5million to Public Health England to strengthen AMR research capability. This funding will be used to establish a flexible modular facility that will simulate a 4-bed hospital ward. This state-of-the-art facility will enable researchers to trial innovative approaches that would be impractical and disruptive to assess in a normal working

ward environment. We expect the facility to be operational towards the end of 2020.

Progress – Data Interoperability

This funding will also be used to support our data interoperability ambitions.

Public Health England will create a virtual ‘open access’ centre, which will gather real-time patient data on resistant infections with the potential to inform antibiotic treatment and optimise life-saving treatments interventions for serious infections – including sepsis. This will become the most advanced AMR dataset globally, that will ensure that the UK leads the development of Big Data methodologies to enhance our understanding of AMR.

Progress – Artificial Intelligence

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been the subject of much sensationalised reporting of both its benefits and risks. What we do know is that AI will bring big changes to the way that care is delivered and experienced.

Through AI’s ability to rapidly process large and complex data sets, it can automate diagnostic processes, reducing burden on clinicians - enabling them more time to focus on patients. It can also bring benefits to the wider UK economy.

AMR is an area that stands to benefit greatly from the application of AI, whether helping clinicians to interpret data from tests more quickly to decide on the best treatment for a particular patient, or even more advanced applications, such as studying the genome of a novel strain of bacteria to predict its response to different treatment.

The Government has set out a Mission for AI and data driven technology to transform the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of chronic disease by 2030.

As part of this mission we have established a new joint unit, NHSX, to lead strategy, programme and delivery for the digitisation of health and care

We will continue to work with academia, the charitable sector, and industry to harness the power of data science and AI so that the health and care system realises the benefits of this ‘fourth industrial revolution’.


And just to conclude, I note that Dame Sally Davies will be here later today. Some of you may be concerned that the government might take its foot off the gas when Dame Sally moves to her new role at Trinity College.

I would like to make it clear that that will not be the case.

The UK is recognised as a global leader in tackling AMR. But there is still much more to do and we do not want to lose the momentum we have generated. I am therefore delighted that Dame Sally has been appointed as special envoy for AMR to ensure that the UK continues its global leadership in this area.

I and my fellow ministers are seized of the urgency of this agenda and will continue to promote the need for coordinated action at events around the world, pushing for accelerated implementation of commitments on human health, animal health, food and the environment.

But we know that no national government can tackle AMR alone - it will only be by international collaboration between governments, clinicians, researchers, innovators, charities and the public that we will have any hope of reducing infection, improving stewardship of antimicrobials, creating effective economic models for new drugs. It is only by working together we can have any hope of containing and controlling AMR by 2040.

Nicola Blackwood