Sandoz, Ares extend digital alliance on antimicrobial resistance

by Stephen Riddle

Novartis’ generics unit Sandoz has moved on to the next stage of a collaboration with Ares Genetics, which is focusing on the use of artificial intelligence to track antimicrobial resistance (AMR), improve diagnoses and guide the most effective use of antibiotics.

Sandoz and Ares – a subsidiary of OpGen – started working together in 2018, and with the extension will continue the project until the end of January 2025.

During the initial stage of the collaboration, Ares developed a an AI-powered anti-infectives platform using microbiological lab techniques and bioinformatics that can be used to identify effective antimicrobial compounds or combinations against specific pathogens, which Sandoz can use to inform its “portfolio and commercial decisions.”

Now, the aim is to layer in genomics surveillance using Ares’ next-generation sequencing (NGS) expertise, improving the monitoring of resistant pathogens and making sure that antibiotics are prescribed wisely.

“AMR, which is now estimated to directly account for nearly 1.3 million deaths worldwide every year, is an unprecedented threat to global public health,” said Sandoz chief executive Richard Saynor in a statement on the revised collaboration.

The World Health Organization (WHO) meanwhile has warned that, without new treatments, AMR could kill 10 million people every year by 2050.

“As the world’s leading provider of generic antibiotics, our goal at Sandoz is to play a key role in overcoming this growing threat,” he added.

Sandoz’ parent Novartis exited novel antibiotics R&D four years ago, joining an exodus from the sector by big pharma companies that has raised fears of increasing numbers of infections that will resist all current drugs.

The generics unit has been however extending its product range in the category, for example last year it spent $350 million on GlaxoSmithKline’s cephalosporin franchise, including Zinnat (cefuroxime axetil), Zinacef (cefuroxime) and Fortum (ceftazidime).

The big challenge is making sure these drugs are used in the best way, to conserve their efficacy as new therapies come through the pipeline, and big part of the Ares collaboration will be working out how antibiotics may be repurposed to tackle specific infections, said Saynor.

“Diagnostic and surveillance data not only have the potential to empirically inform antibiotic stewardship today, but also hold the potential to expand our options in treating AMR in the future,” added Dr Arne Materna, Ares’ managing director and CEO.

“Supplying up-to-date AMR data…promotes the discovery of effective conventional antimicrobial compounds and combinations thereof, and may ultimately allow their targeted repurposing as treatment alternatives that could help preserve last-resort therapies,” he added.

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