A collaboration between organisations in the UK and China has been agreed to further research into human and agricultural medicine.

The Medical Research Council (MRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council have joined forces with the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) to establish a joint fund of £9M to support research on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The UK contribution (£4.5m) will be channelled through the Newton Fund, an initiative launched in April 2014 to strengthen research and innovation partnerships between the UK and emerging knowledge economies. The Chinese government will provide matched funding to support internationally competitive projects between researchers from China and the UK. Antimicrobial Resistance is a big problem for healthcare and agriculture. Antibiotic overuse and misuse in agriculture and human medicine has led to a growing number of bacteria in humans, animals and the environment that are resistant to them.

Drug resistant infections will kill an extra 10 million people a year worldwide – more than currently die from cancer – and cost the global economy up to $100Tn (£64Tn) by 2050, unless action is taken. In China alone, by 2050 as many as one million people a year could be dying because of AMR. The cumulative economic cost would be $20Tn – equivalent to two years of current Chinese output. UK Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP said: “Antimicrobial Resistance is a major threat to millions of lives around the world. This £9m joint investment will help leading scientists in the UK and China share expertise and innovations to develop new treatments that could help eradicate this threat to global public health.” Professor Lu Rongkai, Deputy Director General of the Bureau of International Cooperation, NSFC, said: “The increasing threat posed by antimicrobial resistance is an international issue that requires much deeper understanding, which will only be achieved through an interdisciplinary approach.” Dr Mark Palmer MRC Director of International Strategy said: “We know diseases don’t recognise international borders and that addressing health problems around the world demands a global response.”