Innogen Institute: diagnostic tests to combat antimicrobial resistance
The Innogen Institute, since its formation in 2002, has been forging a path-breaking approach to supporting the development of life science-based innovation that can meet today’s pressing societal needs. The focus is particularly on the systemic interactions between scientists and innovators; regulators and policymakers; and stakeholders and citizens. Their various research and consultancy programmes are now influencing government policy and regulatory thinking on the adaptation of regulatory systems to make them more proportionate and adaptive to the needs of innovative technologies and also to incentivise companies to undertake innovation responsibly.
As an example of this approach, Innogen co-director Joyce Tait gave a keynote presentation at the Bloomsbury SET conference on infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Her talk, “Interdisciplinary knowledge exchange to tackle global health challenges”, highlighted Innogen’s work on regulatory adaptation to support the development of new antimicrobial drugs and rapid diagnostics. Dr Jeremy Salt, Chief Scientific Officer, GALVmed, also gave a presentation. The event was chaired by Dr Emma Tomlinson, Chair of The Bloomsbury SET Steering Group and was followed by a panel discussion.
Innogen research had demonstrated that, although incentives were needed to speed up the development of new antimicrobial drugs, an equivalent R&D and regulatory effort was also needed to develop smarter and more rapid diagnostics, to ensure that drugs were effective against the infectious agent involved, and to preventing further development of AMR. Their report found that regulatory adaptation had already enabled more rapid and cost-effective development of new drugs in the US and the EU, but for diagnostic devices, the regulatory climate was deteriorating. More recently, the Diagnostic Innovation and Livestock (DIAL) project looked at the development of innovative diagnostic devices for animal diseases, to counter the spread of AMR arising from the use of antibiotics in farming. In that case, the main disincentives to innovation turned out to be market-related factors, and constraints related to farming practices, rather than regulation
At the Bloomsbury conference, Joyce Tait also highlighted the importance of supporting regulatory adaptation more generally. In 2018, she led a Council for Science and Technology initiative resulting in a letter to the Prime Minister highlighting the problem and suggesting possible Government actions. In response, the Regulatory Horizons Council (RHC) was set up to provide the government with impartial, expert advice on the regulatory reforms required to support the rapid and safe introduction of technological innovations and, as a member of the RHC, Joyce has been working on the regulation of genetic technologies for use in agriculture and food production.
During the panel discussion, questions regarding the effects of current funding and reward systems in academia on technological innovation were discussed, considering how best to connect expertise from different disciplines, to further research translation, commercialisation and impact in the field of emerging infectious disease.
“It’s always interesting to see how Innogen’s work is relevant to a broad range of today’s challenging issues, in this case, antimicrobial resistance and the use of diagnostic tests, making links with the work of GALVmed as described by Jeremy Salt in his presentation.”
Professor Joyce Tait, Co-Director, Innogen Institute, The University of Edinburgh.
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The Bloomsbury SET, funded by Research England, was established in 2018 as a Knowledge Exchange platform to accelerate the delivery of innovative scientific and technical solutions in the field of Healthcare and Medicines.