Prof Guy Thwaites co-authored WHO’s report on antibacterial agents in preclinical & clinical development

OUCRU’s Director, Professor Guy Thwaites, has recently contributed to an analysis of antibacterial agents in preclinical and clinical development by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as part of the WHO advisory group on research and development of antibacterial treatments.

The advisory group met virtually on 29 and 30 November 2021 to discuss and evaluate pipelines of antibacterial candidates in different stages of development around the globe. The resulting report – titled “2021 Antibacterial agents in clinical development and preclinical: an overview and analysis” – covers 77 antibacterial agents in clinical development, 45 of which are traditional (direct-acting small molecules) agents and 32 are non-traditional agents.

The report shows that the development of new antibacterial treatments is insufficient to tackle the increasing threat of antibiotic resistance. The number of new antibiotics in the preclinical stage has remained relatively constant over the last 3 years. However, in the clinical stage, there were only 27 new products against priority pathogens in 2021, compared to 31 products in 2017. Amongst those, only 6 fulfill at least one of WHO’s criteria for innovation. This is due to barriers such as the lengthy approval pathway, high cost, low success rates, and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 analysis suggests that the issue demands urgent and concerted efforts from both governments and the private sector. They need to work together to accelerate the innovation of antibiotics, especially those that can make an impact in low-resource settings where antimicrobial resistance is most visible. There should also be collaboration across countries to create sustainable solutions, enhance research and development, as well as establish a viable ecosystem for antibiotics.