Press release

Tackling drug resistance: UK-China funding competition opens

A competition has opened that will make up to £10 million available to UK academic and industrial organisations to work in a consortium with Chinese partners.

Research in a laboratory

Innovate UK has announced the opening of a new collaborative competition between the UK and China to develop solutions that address the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will invest up to £10 million in UK businesses and academia. This will be delivered through Innovate UK. The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology will invest up to 60 million Renminbi to fund the Chinese partners.

Health Minister Steve Brine said:

This investment cements the UK government’s commitment to combating drug-resistant infections through innovative research and development projects. By operating together, the UK and China will represent a formidable force against one of the most dangerous global crises facing the modern world.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer said:

Drug-resistant infections are already killing hundreds of thousands of people around the world. If we act in isolation against this threat, we will fail.

The opening of this research funding competition is a vital step forward. It builds on critical activities that have and will continue to take place to build UK and Chinese academia and industry partnerships to combat antimicrobial resistance. This competition aims to deliver cutting-edge research and have global benefits, particularly for the world’s most vulnerable.

We must continue to do more, in every sector, and in every country, to stay ahead of this intensifying threat.

Dr Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK said:

The threat posed by AMR could cause 10 million extra deaths a year and cost the global economy up to £75 trillion by 2050. This is a challenge for the whole world and the partnership with China is an important opportunity to face that threat together.

The aim is to support novel projects that neither country would be able to conduct within the same timeframe without the other’s expertise. These should develop new products or services against AMR where there is a significant threat to human health. Where appropriate, they should include clinical evaluation.

Addressing the threat of drug resistance

It has been estimated that failure to tackle AMR will lead to at least 10 million extra deaths a year by 2050. This would cost the global economy up to $100 trillion US Dollars. A substantial research and innovation effort is needed to address the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance, and to speed up the development of new and alternative antimicrobials and supporting technologies.

What is in scope

In this call we will be looking for projects that:

  • explore opportunities from traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment or prevention of infectious bacterial diseases in humans or animals
  • advance the discovery of new agents to prevent or treat drug-resistant bacterial infection in humans or livestock. New agents could include small molecule drugs, vaccines, antibodies or other biological products
  • identify new agents that will increase the feed energy conversion in livestock. This should be done without use of antibiotics or hormones
  • use modelling and prospective and retrospective clinical studies to maximise the clinical utility of current antibiotics. Focus especially on those against drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. Projects must aim to improve the prognosis of patients with extensively drug-resistant infections
  • improve capabilities for the diagnosis, treatment selection and surveillance of bacterial infections and antibacterial resistance

All projects must comply with Official Development Assistance criteria.

Competition information

  • this competition will be open 3 April 2018 to 6 June 2018
  • to lead a project you need to be a UK-based business of any size. Additionally, there must be at least one academic partner from the UK, one Chinese business and one academic from China in a project team
  • projects should last no more than 3 years
  • up to £750,000 is on offer per project on the UK side. On the Chinese side, funding of up to 5 million Renminbi will be made available
  • you could get up to 70% of your project costs
  • there will be a webinar for UK and Chinese bidders to find out more and to meet potential partners

Notes to Editors

  • This competition was announced in Summer 2017, following a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and China signed by the Secretary of State during the high-level people to people dialogue in December 2016. Since then, partnership building activities have been taking place to strengthen connections between UK and Chinese industry and academia
  • The UK-China partnership is aimed at scientific innovation which benefits people in low and middle-income countries. It is a project of the UK’s Global AMR Innovation Fund (GAMRIF) and the DHSC Global Health Security Programme
  • DHSC in the UK and the Ministry of Science and Technology in China are funding joint projects. The UK will fund UK researchers and China will fund the Chinese researchers. This approach is based upon the Newton Fund model, managed by the UK’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, but is a separate project established and funded wholly by DHSC
  • The Newton Fund has already demonstrated success that shows the impact these partnerships can have. For example, in November 2015, Professor Tim Walsh (Cardiff University) and his collaborators in China jointly discovered the MCR-1 gene which confers resistance, in humans and animals, to the last-resort antibiotic colistin. The researchers were able to show the transmission pathway (horizontal gene transfer) of this particular resistance gene from pigs to humans. This ultimately led to the Chinese Government banning the use of colistin as a growth promoter in animals in China (effective from April 2017)
Published 28 March 2018