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New fellowships announced in UK-Japan partnership to tackle antimicrobial resistance

Two infectious disease experts have been selected to be Policy Fellows as part of a Japan-UK collaboration led by The University of Warwick to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major threat to global health, with overuse of drugs, including antibiotics, leading to so-called ‘superbugs’ that have become more resistant to medicine. Antimicrobial resistance was responsible for 1.27 million deaths in 2019 alone.

The Fellowships, funded by The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, are named in honour of two leaders of the global effort to tackle the challenge of antimicrobial resistance: Dame Sally Davies, a former Chief Medical Officer of England and current UK Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance, and Mr Yasuhisa Shiozaki, a former Minister of Health of Japan and current Chair of the Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance. They are part of a wider £1.5M Japan-UK partnership, led by Professor Chris Dowson of The University of Warwick, which aims to develop new antibiotics and train the next generation of research leaders.

The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) are responsible for the partnership’s work on policy. As part of this, Dr Alicia Demirjian, Clinical Lead for Antimicrobial Resistance & Prescribing at the UK Health Security Agency, and Dr Nobuaki Matsunaga, Chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology at the AMR Clinical Reference Centre of the National Centre for Global Health and Medicine will join a Fellowship programme hosted by IDS and GRIPS.

The two Fellows will work closely with the UK Health Security Agency and Japan’s National Centre for Global Health and Medicine, to build mutual understanding and new ways that academics, scientists, pharmaceutical companies, funding agencies, philanthropists and governments can work together to tackle this important global challenge.

Dr Alicia Demirjian said: “As a paediatric infectious diseases physician, I am highly aware of the threat of antimicrobial resistance to modern healthcare, and the need for a multidisciplinary solution to address this challenge. My aim is to align government, academic, and industry objectives to facilitate the discovery and development of new antimicrobial agents. I look forward to discussions with colleagues working across diverse settings in Japan and in the UK, and sharing lessons learned.”

Dr Nobuaki Matsunaga said: “Through the Fellowship, I will make specific policy recommendations on an ecosystem to accelerate the discovery and development of new antimicrobials and to deepen collaboration with the international research community, industry, academia, and government. To climb the big mountain, people should join hands more. Based on my clinical experience and public health background, I hope to become a bridge builder through this project."

Professor Dame Sally Davies GCB DBE, and Mr Yasuhisa Shiozaki said: “We are delighted that Doctors Alicia Demirjian and Nobuaki Matsunaga have been selected for these Fellowships. As we move towards the UN High Level Meeting on antimicrobial resistance in September, we have confidence that their work will play an important role in translating new global commitments into practical action in Japan and the UK.”

Dr Gerald Bloom, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, said: “This new Fellowship will help scientists engage with policymakers on how we can more rapidly discover new antibiotics, and build capacity for research and development to help keep us all healthier and safer in the future.”

The result of growing drug resistance makes the treatment of many diseases more difficult. This challenge disproportionately affects countries in the global South, especially people who are poor and vulnerable.

Notes to Editors

· In 2019, antimicrobial resistance was responsible for the deaths of 1.27 million people and contributed to the deaths of 4.95 million people, with the highest burdens in low-income settings (Source: The Lancet 2022).

· The UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on antimicrobial resistance 2024 takes place on 26 September 2024, eight years after the first such meeting.

· The UK Health Security Agency has a five year action plan on confronting antimicrobial resistance, 2024-2029.

· The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) delivers world-class research, learning and teaching that transforms the knowledge, action and leadership needed for more equitable and sustainable development globally. Through equitable and sustainable partnerships, we work with governments, philanthropic foundations, non-governmental organisations, academics and civil society to transform approaches to progressive social, political and economic change in ways that ultimately make a difference to people’s lives.

· IDS, in partnership with the University of Sussex, has been named best in the world for Development Studies in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2024 for the eighth year in a row.

· The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation was established in 1985 as a non-governmental, non-profit making UK charity with the purpose of helping to maintain and develop good relations between the United Kingdom and Japan.

9 July 2024