23rd November 2021

Drug resistant infections and the superbugs that cause them are an increasing challenge for health systems, globally. The technical term is antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which occurs when microorganisms evolve to resist medicines, represents an exceptional and growing threat to the way we treat diseases, to the way we are enabled to perform routine surgeries and to the way we roll out treatments when we temporarily suppress the immune system, including chemotherapy.

The ‘World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021’ started last week. My point of view of the ‘WAAW’ has shifted this year as a result of a career change. Last year I was helping lead AMR work at UNICEF but now I’m an impact and investment analyst for health innovation at Baillie Gifford. However, even with this new outlook, my focus on fighting AMR remains undiminished. Awareness of the issue is a key component in this fight, so a new challenge is right in front of me: to help create a community of companies and investors who are well-informed about AMR. Together we can tackle AMR using ‘One Health’, which is a collaborative approach to the health of humans, animals, and the environment.

From promises to incentives

Following promising discussions earlier this year at the G7 summit, Finance Ministers released a communique clearly stating the need to address AMR This should lead to new proposals for market incentives that drive antibiotic drug development. But do investors truly understand their unique and pressing role to protect antimicrobials? There is a lot of work to be done and it’s taking too long to bring dedicated global attention. We cannot afford the wait. Just like climate change, AMR is another global complex problem which will get out of control if we do not galvanise industries and businesses to accelerate meaningful action now.

What must investors do? I would like to see them commit to stimulate and support innovation in drug development and other healthcare alternatives by deploying patient capital to the teams and companies at the vanguard of this cause. Fostering an ecosystem of biology, technology and business where AMR breakthroughs can achieve commercial fruition will strengthen the healthcare sector, and ultimately save lives.

Investors & influence

We have never had so much attention on infectious diseases as we have now, and it is imperative that investment is at a scale where it can make a real impact. There is also much at stake for the private sector. AMR is a threat to the global economy and decreases the ability of economic recovery. The impact on productivity is costly and the recovery even costlier. Investors and companies are often inspired when there’s a clear narrative that demonstrates a big return of investment. But what to do when the message is not straight forward and still needs work; when there’s an urgent but silent threat such as AMR; when everyone is fatigued by a global health crisis and desensitised to scary statistics. The timing couldn’t be worse, but we must appeal once again to investors and drug developers sense of global and human responsibility and answer the call to lead.

Call to action

As I heard from Dame Sally Davies, the UK Special Envoy on AMR: we gather voices, we bring leaders together and we build platforms for AMR, working towards the goal to provide concrete market options for its growth and evolution. We work together for a safer, more secure, and transparent supply chain of antimicrobials. AMR poses material risks but it also brings opportunities, the biggest one of them is about saving modern medicine for all.

Maria Souza is an Impact & Investment Analyst for Baillie Gifford

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