Fund backed by 20 drugmakers raises $140 mln to save antibiotic pipeline


By Manas Mishra

(Reuters) - The AMR Action Fund, which was unveiled last year by more than 20 drugmakers to help struggling antibiotic companies, said on Thursday it received $140 million from a group of new investors, including the European Investment Bank.

The new funding, which includes investments from Britain-based Wellcome Trust and Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation, adds to an initial $1 billion support from drugmakers such as Merck & Co Inc and Pfizer Inc.

Antibiotic makers have struggled with anemic investment and bankruptcies, even after the approval of new drugs, as fears of drug-resistant microbes force hospitals to adopt a more conservative approach toward such treatments.

The AMR Action Fund aims to sustain a pipeline for new treatments and bring two-four new antibiotics to patients by the end of the decade in a market, which has seen a series of bankruptcies in the past three years.

With the new funding, AMR Action will "be starting to look at investments in the second quarter, and I expect we would make our first investment this year," said Henry Skinner, who was named as the fund's chief executive officer on Thursday.

Skinner was most recently the senior vice-president at investment adviser Tekla Capital Management and has also served as the CEO of antibiotics developer SelectX Pharmaceuticals.

Companies have to keep developing antibiotics to counter these drug-resistant microbes as older antibiotics lose effectiveness in some patients, Skinner said.

"It's a little bit of a Catch-22. And because of that, the willingness to invest in this space has diminished over the last 20 years."

The fund will help "bridge" the lack of investment in the field until new legislation offers a more permanent fix in the market, Skinner said.

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