Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham spoke to BIVDA’s Infectious Diseases Working Party this week about his work to tackle AMR, including his chairmanship of the world’s first AMR centre, The Fleming Centre, due to open in 2028. The address was particularly pertinent given this week marks AMR Awareness Week 2023.
The opening of The Fleming Centre will mark the centenary of the discovery of penicillin, with the centre bearing its discoverer’s name. Lord Darzi noted starkly that even Alexander Fleming, during the advent of his discovery, noted that antimicrobial resistance would be a grave problem in future if humans failed to confront the issue. With no new classes of antibiotics being discovered since 1987, and harmful behaviour towards antibiotics persisting globally, Dr Fleming’s fears are firmly being realised.
Lord Darzi’s vision for the Fleming Centre is to bring research, industry, policy and public engagement around AMR under one roof. This will ensure that the issue itself is being tackled scientifically while also ensuring that policymakers and the public are engaged and informed on the topic too. The latter is vitally important, as Lord Darzi stressed that behavioural change is just as important as novel scientific discoveries. Public understanding of the issue will lessen the careless use of antibiotics while policymakers from DHSC and DEFRA physically located at the centre will be more intimately involved with the problem; likely to improve decision-making.
This is a global problem which therefore requires a global solution. It is therefore envisaged that London’s Fleming Centre will be replicated globally, with at least one centre in each continent. This would allow for specific tailoring of AMR education to individual nations and regions to maximise effectiveness. Evidently, what works in the UK may not resonate with countries overseas. Lord Darzi stated that the public and clinicians already show an excellent approach to antimicrobial stewardship, however, the situation is alarming poor in France, India and much of Africa.
The importance of diagnostics in this battle was outlined by Lord Darzi, and he called for a drastic increase in diagnostics investment in the NHS, noting it was low compared to comparable nations. The price of diagnostics would also have to reduce to gain a foothold in low and middle income countries. The solution, eventually, could be legislation which demands a diagnostic test precedes an antibiotics prescription to establish a clear diagnosis.
On the same day that we enjoyed Lord Darzi’s presentation, the Chancellor announced £5 million in funding for the Fleming Centre in his Autumn Statement, bringing the centre closer to its funding goal. The centre is currently at the design stage and is expected to break ground in 2025. It is being supported by the likes of Prince William – as patron of the centre – and ex-Prime Ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Lord Cameron.
We would like to thank Lord Darzi again for his presentation and look forward to working with him in future.
You can watch a video on the Fleming Centre here.