As the European Commission’s AMR strategy aims to better research coordination, New Europe asked European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas on what the EU executive plans apart from issuing guidelines, where do the €1.3 billion on research and development (R&D) through transnational collaborative research that the EU has spent go and how can innovation tackle AMR.
Commissioner Moedas, your action plan involves the support of SMEs in their R&D efforts towards innovative and alternative approaches. What are the alternatives to antibiotics?
My colleague – EU Commissioner Andrukaitis mentioned vaccines, but we are researching towards more innovative ideas, such as bacteria eating other bacteria. Those are things that we are studying and funding in order to find alternatives to antibiotics.
Will innovation be able to break the link between pharmaceutical companies and doctors, vets and pharmacists? Commissioner Andrukaitis just told us that there is pressure from societies to the doctors to keep prescribing, but how is this going to change?
This is a great example of interdisciplinarity because here what you need to have is basically research in economics, because of that very unique problem with incentives. So, companies develop antibiotics and R&D costs money. Naturally, companies want to sell a lot of antibiotics to pay for the cost, so you want to delink that. You want them to develop new antibiotics but you don’t want them to sell those antibiotics because it is wrong.
There are ways to delink, such as paying a market entry reward to the company for the antibiotic R&D, the state, the governments can do that.
You can find ways to confirm that the antibiotics are prescribed where they need to, you can confirm if that is the right decision and if that is so, you can pay more, or you pay less, according to diagnosis confirmation.
Recently, the European Commission has awarded a €1mil prize to a finger prick test, allowing the doctor almost instantly, within 10 minutes time to identify whether an infection is bacterial or viral, then, it is when the doctor can take the right decision. It is a puzzle, where you have to find different incentives that will allow the companies to develop, not because they are going to sell more, but because they want to do more money.
So, is it first innovation and then legislation?
A lot of this falls to a national level and each country is different. My role is more about the research side, for us the importance is how do we discover new antibiotics and to do that we have to go to different places. We discover antibiotics in the land, we have to go to the oceans and look at different ways of getting antibiotics from the deep sea, there is a world of discovery.
At the same time, you can raise awareness on the role of antibiotics through research, as there is a lack of awareness that everyone recognizes.