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Big Pharma's billion-dollar scramble to invest in start-ups to fuel innovation


Novo Holdings' recent launch of a $165 million venture fund focused on tackling "superbugs" resistant to modern antibiotics demonstrates the paradigm shift occurring in Big Pharma.

Novo's Repair Impact Fund — Repair stands for Replenishing and Enabling the Pipeline for Anti-Infective Resistance — will invest $20 million to $40 million in start-ups and early stage companies in the United States and Europe that have new approaches to combat bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health.

New approaches to combat antimicrobial resistance urgently need to be developed. Already, more than 700,000 people die each year from infections resistant to most or all antibiotics, and the number is increasing by the day. Antimicrobial resistance is projected to kill more people than cancer by 2050, which would reduce global economic output by between 2 percent and 3.5 percent and severely cripple modern medical and surgical advances.

Despite growing recognition of this threat, there is an early stage funding gap for new treatments. To date, Big Pharma companies have not successfully developed a new generation of antibiotics, although last year they set up AMR Industry Alliance, a coalition to monitor the industry's progress in this field.