New Asian Clinical Research Network Will Tackle Drug-Resistant Infections

Hsu Li Yang, Vice Dean (Global Health), National University of Singapore

Wellcome Trust has provided a grant of more than $1.8 million to the National University of Singapore (NUS) to establish the Asian Clinical Research Network (ACRN) to conduct antimicrobial clinical research to develop the most effective ways to treat and prevent life-threatening, drug-resistant infections. This will be the first clinical trial network established in Asia focusing on drug-resistant infections. Other similar networks have been set up in Europe, the United States, and Australia and collaborating with these networks is a key goal.

The NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health will host the network and work closely with local partners to carry out clinical trials related to drug-resistant infections. The Singapore Clinical Research Institute is involved in implementing the network.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microbes become resistant to the medications used to treat the infections they cause. Currently, at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant infections. According to a report released by the United Nations in 2019, drug-resistant infections could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050, and by 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty. Experts predict that by 2050, nearly half of the deaths caused by drug-resistant infections could occur in Asia.

Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, an infectious disease expert and Vice Dean (Global Health) at NUS, explained, “The current model of clinical research in antimicrobial resistance is to fund individual clinical trials on an ad-hoc basis, with each trial requiring significant investment in research infrastructure and skills development in addition to the trial-specific costs. This model is inefficient scientifically, developmentally, and financially. Such trials are also typically not conducted in low- and middle-income countries, where there is the greatest need.”

Yang added, “A clinical research network based in Asia will significantly increase the quality and efficiency of clinical trials in the region, resulting in an improved understanding of drug-resistant infections, improved treatment of those infections, and an increase in the supply of new drugs to fight antimicrobial resistance. The joint funding [from other institutions within the ACRN] will also spur research collaboration and capacity building both in Singapore and the region to jointly develop solutions to the issue of antimicrobial resistance.”

Edited by Gary Cramer