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£4.5M Newton Fund to tackle antimicrobial resistance

Copyright: iStock
News from: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
News from: Economic and Social Research Council
News from: Medical Research Council
News from: National Natural Science Foundation of China
News from: Newton Fund

Six new research partnerships looking at ways of tackling the rise of anti-microbial resistance (AMR) have been created with £4.5M investment by the UK Research Councils: BBSRC, ESRC and MRC through the Newton Fund, an initiative intended to strengthen research and innovation partnerships between the UK and partner countries.

The partnerships will see researchers from multiple disciplines at six UK centres of excellence work in collaboration with Chinese counterparts, thanks to match funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) to foster collaboration across borders and between diverse disciplines to help stop the growing global burden posed by AMR.

The discovery and introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s gave us the ability to prevent women dying from post-childbirth infection, to treat tuberculosis and for farmers to protect crops and harvest from infection. However, as microorganisms become resistant to antimicrobial treatments, including antibiotics, there is a very real possibility that the drugs we have come to rely upon may become obsolete. Cross border collaboration is a vital step to progress in this global risk.

Speaking on behalf of the collaborating UK Research Councils, Mark Palmer, Head of International at MRC, said: “The growing resistance of micro-organisms to antimicrobial therapies such as antibiotics is a public health issue of global importance and it requires an urgent global response. The outcomes of these awards will benefit both the UK and China through the sharing of knowledge, and hopefully lead to significant impacts on health and policy.”

Professor Lu Rongkai, Deputy Director General, Bureau of International Cooperation, NSFC, said: “Antimicrobial resistance is now widely recognised as one of the most serious global threat to human health in the 21st centuries. The global spread of some infectious diseases has led to an increase in antibiotics usage, with the inevitable risk of emerging resistance. These jointly awarded grants are expected to combat this problem in both China and UK, and even to promote global progress in human public health science.”

The UK Research Councils support research, capability and training to pursue a range of strategies to tackle this global problem. Years of research mean that we are now in a better position than ever to understand microbes such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, how they interact with their hosts, and to identify possible routes for alternative diagnostics and treatments.

The UK-Chinese partnerships, as part of the UK-China AMR Partnership Initiative, will bring together leading researchers from both countries, and from multiple scientific disciplines, in order to better understand the emergence and spread of bacteria, develop new interventions, and improve health and agricultural systems.

The following projects have now been awarded:

  1. An integrated approach to understand the emergence and spread of extensively resistant Gram-negative bacteria in China
    UK Principal Investigator – Francois Balloux, University College London
    Chinese Principal Investigator – Hui Wang, Peking University
  2. Accelerate CHNUK AMR discovery: Establishing joint China/UK training and research platforms enabling high throughput fragment based inhibitor discovery
    UK Principal Investigator – Chris Dowson, The University of Warwick
    Chinese Principal Investigator – Caiguang Yang, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  3. Investigation of LA-MRSA in China and the UK
    UK Principal Investigator – Mark Holmes, University of Cambridge
    Chinese Principal Investigator – Rui Zhou, Huazhong Agricultural University
  4. Pathways to optimising antibiotic use in Anhui: Identifying key determinants in community and clinical settings
    UK Principal Investigator – Helen Lambert, University of Bristol
    Chinese Principal Investigator – Debin Wang, Anhui Medical University
  5. Extending bicyclomycin treatment of multi-drug resistant Gram-negative pathogens
    UK Principal Investigator – Andrew Truman, John Innes Centre
    Chinese Principal Investigator – Xianming Deng, Xiamen University
  6. Determining the clinical and environmental impact, burden and cost of extensively drug resistant Enterobacteriaceae in China (DETER-XDRE-CHINA)
    UK Principal Investigator – Timothy Walsh, Cardiff University
    Chinese Principal Investigator – Jianzhong Shen, China Agricultural University


About MRC

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health. Thirty-one MRC-funded researchers have won Nobel prizes in a wide range of disciplines, and MRC scientists have been behind such diverse discoveries as vitamins, the structure of DNA and the link between smoking and cancer, as well as achievements such as pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the invention of MRI scanning, and the development of a group of antibodies used in the making of some of the most successful drugs ever developed. Today, MRC-funded scientists tackle some of the greatest health problems facing humanity in the 21st century, from the rising tide of chronic diseases associated with ageing to the threats posed by rapidly mutating micro-organisms.


BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £473 million in world-class bioscience, people and research infrastructure in 2015-16. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.

About ESRC

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government.

About National Natural Science Foundation of China

The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) is widely respected as the most transparent research funder in China, it implements a rigorous and objective peer review system to support basic and frontier research, foster talented researchers and develop international cooperation.

NSFC is RCUK’s primary funding partner in China. RCUK’s relationship with NSFC has developed significantly since the Beijing office was set up. RCUK and NSFC signed a joint agreement in December 2013 to establish Biennial Strategic Meetings to optimise resources and explore more effective mechanisms for bilateral cooperation. This is the first of its kind for both the Research Councils and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), and has been a vital step in solidifying a partnership that has funded over £130M in joint programmes.

About the Newton Fund

The Newton Fund builds scientific and innovation partnerships with 16 partner countries to support their economic development and social welfare, and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. It has a total UK Government investment of £735M up until 2021, with matched resources from the partner countries. The Newton Fund is managed by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (NEIS), and delivered through 15 UK Delivery Partners, which include the Research Councils, the UK Academies, the British Council, Innovate UK and the Met Office.

For further information visit the Newton Fund website and follow via Twitter: @NewtonFund


UK Research and Innovation Media Office

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