Drug Giants to Antibiotic Startups

BY: CLAIRE KIM

With small biotech startups struggling to make progress in their COVID-19 antibiotics research due to a lack of sufficient funding, this past Thursday, “twenty of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies […] announced the creation of a $1 billion fund to buoy” such “financially strapped” businesses in an effort to bring two to four “novel antibiotics to the market within a decade”. (New York Times)

Called the “AMR Action Fund”, this fund was created in partnership with not only pharmaceutical companies but also the World Health Organization as well, showing how branches of the health sector altogether have recognized the value of startup research during a time of such uncertainty. Willing to share the financial burden instead of stubbornly attempting to create the “ultimate drug” all by themselves, the fact that several large, well-known companies–Roche, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, etc.–have decided to support the “minions” of the antibiotics race is exciting to see.

When it comes to developing and purchasing substantial drugs, often times the nominal value of the company seems to take away the spotlight from the product’s actual efficacy.

“If it’s made by Johnson & Johnson, the product is qualified”.

“If it’s an unknown name brand, the product is unqualified.”

We naturally form such biases based on the product’s manufacturing company when really we should be open to all options, choosing from those who simply provide the best treatment. Perhaps, it’s the unintended consequences of living in a consumer-based culture that we oblige to such biases, but from time to time, I find that the companies themselves, those of high brand name value, often attempt to brainwash our selective abilities by promoting their brand all the time. I mean, they have the money for such mass advertising.

The fact that it has taken years for such large pharmaceutical companies to take an interest in supporting startups in the health race is frustrating, but at the same time, understandable given the “capitalistic rush” we all participate in. Hopefully, now that such connections have been made, such collaborative interactions between small and large pharmaceutical companies will remain intact regardless of what health emergency sparks up.

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