India-UK Tackling AMR in the Environment Programme Launched

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), on behalf of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in India, is administering the India-UK Tackling AMR in the Environment from Antimicrobial Manufacturing Waste Programme, involving researchers from the UK and India.

Funding is available for collaborative and cross-disciplinary new research proposals to inform the development of strategies to limit environmental contamination by antimicrobial waste from pharmaceutical manufacturing, with the ultimate aim of contributing to global efforts to contain antimicrobial resistant infections in humans and animals.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global public health challenge, with antibacterial resistance (ABR) viewed as posing one of the most serious health threats. Understanding AMR and ABR requires effective collaboration among several disciplines.

A growing number of published studies indicate high levels of antibiotics, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes in various environments around the world, particularly those impacted by sewage, agriculture and pharmaceutical manufacturing effluent. The role of antimicrobial manufacturing pollution is particularly pertinent in India as there are many antibiotic active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturers and pharmaceutical formulation companies within the country. While the significance of the impact manufacturing waste might have on the environment is unclear, there is potential for high levels of localised contamination because of the large quantity of antimicrobial waste generated during the production process.

India and the UK play a leading role in global efforts to contain AMR via the UN Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance and national action plans that highlight the role of the environment in the spread of AMR and the importance of international collaboration. Joint research on the impacts of the global supply chain of antibiotic manufacturing will therefore contribute towards a reduction of the global impacts of AMR.

Research under this programme will focus on the situation in India and the research outcomes will contribute to assessing the human, animal and environmental health risk that sources of antimicrobial exposure to the environment represent. Research will also assess the development of international environmental standards for antimicrobials in manufacturing effluent and receiving environments.

Funding will refine and seek to address the following identified knowledge gaps:

Understanding the extent of antimicrobial pollution from antimicrobial manufacturing waste (wastewater, solid waste and atmospheric emissions), its pathways through environmental systems, and its role in driving emergence and circulation of AMR in the environment.

Development and validation of globally relevant standardised methods and tools for detection of active antimicrobials and resistant bacteria in effluents and receiving environments.

Determining the impact on human and animal health from environmental exposure to high levels of antimicrobial pollution and resistant bacteria and genes.

Projects must address at least one of the knowledge gaps, with a view to research outputs contributing to ongoing efforts to develop international environmental standards to manage discharge of effluent from antimicrobial producers. Engagement with antimicrobial producers, pollution control agencies, health protection agencies and other stakeholders in the research design is strongly encouraged.

Funding is only available for bilateral joint projects. Projects must be a genuine and equal collaboration between UK and Indian researchers, and be focused on research in the Indian environment, although well-justified comparative studies in other locations are possible.

On the UK side, application is open to UK organisations that are eligible to receive funding from NERC, ie applicants based in UK higher education institutions, approved Research Council Institutes (RCIs) and Independent Research Organisations (IROs). On the Indian side, researchers who are generally eligible to apply for DBT funding opportunities are eligible to apply as Principal Investigators to this scheme. Applications must include at least one India-based Principal Investigator and one UK-based Principal Investigator.

The total budget on the UK side is up to £3.8 million (at 80% fEC). DBT is offering an equivalent amount of funding for the Indian component. Applicants can request up to £800,000 (80% fEC) for the UK component of a project. It is expected that up to five collaborative projects will be funded. The maximum duration of projects is three years.

A notification of intent must be submitted by the deadline of 14 October 2019. Full bid applications must be submitted by the deadline of 12 November 2019.

Submission of the notification of intent to submit a proposal is a requirement of this call and full bids will only be accepted from teams that have submitted a completed online notification of intent to submit form prior to the deadline.

More information about this research funding opportunity and the application process is available on the RESEARCHconnect funding information platform. RESEARCHconnect provides up-to-the minute content, insight and analysis on research funding news and policy. To find out more about how RESEARCHconnect can keep you in the know, and subscription fees, contact us today.