Clinical trial network could boost search for new antibiotics

A network to run clinical trials could make finding new antibiotics cheaper and more efficient, according to a report we have published today.

A human neutrophil ingesting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Credit: NIAID

Scanning electron micrograph of a human neutrophil ingesting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. New antibiotics are urgently needed to combat antibiotic-resistant infections.

There are not enough new antibiotics being created to combat the growing problem of drug-resistant infections, but research to develop new antibiotics is challenging. For example, between 50 and 300 hospitals must be found and enrolled into every trial.

Our report outlines the benefits of creating a clinical trials network:

  • trials would be able to quickly plug into a network of hospitals rather than have to find their own sites
  • standardising research protocols across the network would mean different trials could share the same control groups of patients.

Initial estimates also suggest a network could result in savings of:

  • up to 23% on clinical trial running costs
  • between 40% and 60% of the total cost of trials if a master trial protocol is used and multiple trials share a single control group.

Wellcome's Director Jeremy Farrar said: "We’re entering a post-antibiotic era. Hundreds of thousands of people die every year from drug-resistant infections, and numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. New antibiotics are urgently needed, but so far their development has been inefficient and costly.

"This report highlights innovative models for clinical trials to reduce these barriers, and offers imaginative ways to implement a quicker, less costly and practical system for assessing new antibiotics in a way that would provide the critical robust evidence on safety and efficacy."

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: "We must focus on developing a new generation of antibiotics. This report highlights how making clinical trials quicker, cheaper and easier will help develop the drugs the world needs. I hope that researchers, industry and regulators will build on Wellcome’s research to help make the antibiotic pipeline as effective as possible."

Find out more in the group’s report  Clinical trial networks for antibiotic development [PDF 987KB].