Ineos pledges £100 million to create new livestock antibiotics
UK-based chemicals company Ineos has donated £100 million to the Ineos Oxford University Institute (IOI) to help develop novel antibiotics for livestock.
The company said the donation was to help combat the growing global issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which currently causes an estimated 1.5 million excess deaths each year and could cause over 10m deaths per year by 2050, according to Ineos.
It added that its main focus will be developing bespoke antibiotics for livestock, as well as exploring human drugs.
Surgeon David Sweetnam, adviser to the INEOS Oxford Institute, said: “The growing menace of bacterial resistance to antibiotics is one of the most underreported issues of our time. All modern surgery and cancer treatments rely on the use of effective antibiotics. To lose this precious gift will signal a return to a pre-antibiotic era. We now have a very narrow window of opportunity in which to change course and prevent the unthinkable from becoming the inevitable.
“It’s clear that we must be looking right now for new antibiotics with the same urgency as we have been for vaccines. The consequence of continued complacency doesn’t bear thinking about.”
“If there is any positive lesson to be taken from the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve clearly seen that the only way out of such infectious disease crises is through brilliant scientific groundwork, laid well in advance. The vaccines which have been created in record time and which offer light at the end of the tunnel were developed using research conducted long before Covid-19 struck. It’s clear that we must be looking right now for new antibiotics with the same urgency as we have been for vaccines. The consequence of continued complacency doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Professor Louise Richardson, vice chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: “This is a wonderfully generous gift for which we are very grateful. It is another example of a powerful partnership between public and private institutions to address global problems. Oxford played a crucial role in the early development of antibiotics so it is only appropriate that we take the lead in developing a solution to antimicrobial resistance.”
Despite welcoming the donation, the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics said a focus on animal-specific antibiotics was not the best way to reduce antibiotic resistance in livestock.
A statement on the organisations website read: “The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics welcomes scientific investment aimed at combating the global threat of antibiotic resistance and we are pleased that Oxford University recognises that the overuse of these medicines in livestock is contributing significantly to the problem.
“However, we are not convinced the best approach is to focus on developing new animal-only antibiotics. Such antibiotics are already available and are often used without veterinary oversight to support the intensification of farming and, in some countries, for growth promotion. Introducing new animal-only antibiotics may simply enable further intensification. Scientific evidence shows that intensive farms can be breeding grounds for new bacterial superbugs and new types of viruses with pandemic potential in humans.
“The best way to reduce antibiotic resistance in livestock is to ban all routine use of antibiotics, including preventative mass medication, and to support a shift to higher-welfare, less intensive husbandry systems where disease does not emerge or spread so easily.”
Photograph: The Ineos Oxford University Institute (IOI).