Who will develop new antibacterial agents?

Stewart T. Cole

Abstract

The golden age of antimicrobial drug development is a distant memory, and the likelihood of there being another seems slim. In part, this is because the pharmaceutical industry, which has now adopted an unsustainable business model, abandoned the anti-infective sector, and the pipeline is almost empty. The contribution to this crisis of national governments, health agencies and funders also merits discussion. Much of the basis for drug discovery is funded by the public sector, thereby generating intellectual property and leads for drug development that are often not pursued owing to funding gaps. In particular, the cost of testing drug efficacy in clinical trials is beyond the means of most companies and organizations. Lack of a concerted international effort to develop new antimicrobials is particularly alarming at a time when multidrug-resistant bacteria threaten all areas of human medicine globally. Here, the steps that led to this situation are retraced, and some possible solutions to the dilemma are proposed.

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