In her final address to the World Health Assembly, Director General Margaret Chan noted how reconciling the question of access to new products with the need to support research and development was ‘the most contentious issue’ of her time in office. She spoke of the new Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP), launched almost exactly a year ago by WHO and DNDi, as one example of an attempt to bridge those two imperatives. She described GARDP as a ‘needs-driven R&D initiative initially focused on the development of new antibiotics for treating sepsis and sexually transmitted infections, most notably gonorrhoea’, noting that the ‘partnership aims to promote access and to ensure that prices are affordable.’
Last week, under the impulse of the host country Germany, the G20 held the first ever Health Ministers’ meeting, a sign of the importance accorded to global health issues including drug-resistant infections. In the unprecedented ‘Berlin Declaration’, G20 countries called for ‘broadening the voluntary financial support’ for initiatives, including GARDP, which ‘reinvigorate research and development in science and industry for antimicrobials’.
This broad recognition of the importance and need for support of new and global R&D initiatives is key, as GARDP now moves from the incubation phase to programme implementation.
In its first year, GARDP has set up a prioritization process to select R&D programmes. This process considers not only which pathogens, diseases, and syndromes most urgently need more research, but also which patient groups are underserved. A sustainable access approach is in place to ensure appropriate use and affordable, equitable access to new products.
GARDP’s R&D strategy will focus on the development of antibiotics – be they abandoned, old, existing, or new. The strategy initially targets neonatal sepsis and gonorrhoea, and the launch of an initiative to tap into the expertise, contacts, data, and assets of forgotten, abandoned, or withdrawn antibiotics from the ‘golden era’ of antibiotic drug discovery and development. The aim is to recover vital knowledge, not only for GARDP programmes but also for the larger antibiotic R&D community.
GARDP has built up a team, a dedicated scientific advisory committee, and three R&D programmes thanks to the crucial support from its seed funders, including the German Federal Ministry of Health; the UK Department for International Development; Médecins Sans Frontières; the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health; Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport; and the South African Medical Research Council.
GARDP’s objectives in its 2017-2023 Business Plan are to deliver up to four new treatments and build a robust pipeline of pre-clinical and clinical candidates by 2023. To reach these objectives, GARDP is building key partnerships and harnessing the technical and strategic support from its parent organizations, WHO and DNDi.