Novartis are Latest Big Pharma to Ditch Antibiotic Research Despite Rise of Superbugs

(Source: Reuters)

Novartis have become the latest big pharma to ditch antibiotics research, following in the footsteps of AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Pfizer.

Even in light of the rising fears of “superbugs” and the so-called “antibiotic apocalypse”, in the world of big pharma, the marginal profits made through the development of antibiotics isn’t enough to justify the research.

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Novartis will be shutting down its antibacterial and antiviral research programmes and lay off 140 employees at its Emeryville, California, US location. Most of the affected staff will have a 60-day period to work out their departure, with severance, while a small group will stay on to handle the shutdown.

“While the science for these programmes is compelling, we have decided to prioritise our resources in other areas where we believe we are better positioned to develop innovative medicines that will have a positive impact for patients,” Novartis said in a statement, Endpoints News reported. The company will also attempt to sell the licenses to any ongoing projects, such as experimental antimicrobials in the early phases of research, to other companies.

Bacteria continue to develop resistance to the available drugs creating what are now known as “superbugs”, killing over 700,000 people worldwide each year.

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Governments and outside organisations have tried to convince pharma companies to keep their antibiotic research programs going through generous subsidies and funding investments in recent years, while smaller research facilities have also stepped in. However, we currently have no clear indication that these efforts are really paying off.