CIHR workshop brings together researchers and industry to join in fight against "superbugs"
Researchers and industry explore partnerships to tackle antimicrobial resistance

Representatives from the health research community, industry and government came together to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

On June 21 and 22, the Institute of Infection and Immunity of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) hosted a workshop in Ottawa that brought together health researchers, as well as representatives of the pharmaceutical and health care industries and government, to tackle a growing public health threat: bacteria, viruses and other microbes that have become resistant to previously effective drugs like antibiotics.

Known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the emergence of "superbugs" poses significant risks to public health such as the spread of infectious disease, increased health care costs and risk of death from previously treatable illnesses.

As a global leader in infectious disease research, Canada has a key role to play in the fight against AMR, which is why the approximately 60 conference attendees found themselves in the same room at Ottawa's Shaw Centre.

List of companies that attended:

  • Axela Inc.
  • Biomerieux
  • Cytodiagnostics
  • GenePOC
  • GSK Canada
  • Janssen
  • Merck
  • Moleculomics
  • Philips Healthcare
  • Pro-Lab

Specifically, they were there to strike up collaborative working relationships and form teams that, with $3.6 million in funding from CIHR (and matching support from industry), would develop new tests to rapidly and accurately diagnose antimicrobial resistance. In particular, teams will seek to develop tests that can differentiate between bacterial and viral infections, and test for pathogens like C. difficile, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and the family of bacteria that includes Salmonella and E.coli – microbes that the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have labelled as particularly troublesome.

At the workshop, participants had the opportunity to network, learn about each other's research areas of interest and find out more about the Government of Canada's funding for AMR. Representatives of CIHR, Health Canada, PHAC and the National Research Council were in attendance.

"CIHR is pleased to have been able to help bring together the research community and industry which, by working together, have the power to develop some truly innovative solutions to the global threat of antimicrobial resistance," said Dr. Marc Ouellette, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity.

At home, CIHR has taken a leadership role in the Canadian battle against antimicrobial resistance by partnering with federal departments like Health Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, along with the provinces and territories, to fund research that will strengthen surveillance and laboratory capacity; help in the development of new treatments, diagnostic tests and preventative measures; and increase our knowledge of how antimicrobial resistance is transmitted between different organisms, e.g., from animals to people.

On the world stage, Canada, through CIHR, has joined with 21 other member states that have come together through the Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance to pool global resources to fight a truly worldwide problem that is a priority for this year for the G7 and G20 groups of countries.

Following the workshop in Ottawa, teams will have until November to apply for the $3.6 million in funding from CIHR, with successful grantees to be announced early in the New Year. At a later date, teams will have an opportunity to apply for millions more in funding from CIHR in order to scale up their projects in the coming years.

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