Medical science has long known the dangers of over use of antibiotics. Doing so can allow certain germs or bacteria to build up resistance to treatment, rendering them largely useless. In a worst case scenario, even the most mild infection, from a cut kee say, could have serious, even fatal, consequences.
New treatments are desperately needed. In May, economist Jim O’Neill estimated that the growing resistance to antibiotics could cause 10 million deaths a year by 2050, up from 700,000 today.
The last new antibiotic was developed in the 1980s. Science believed that the problem was solved and moved onto to other areas, such as cancer and asthma.
Finding a new antibiotic is not what Avacta will be using the cash from the Medical Research council for. It will be developing a diagnostic to spot the difference between viral and bacterial infections instead.
This will stop doctors from wrongly prescribing antibiotics and stop the overuse of the treatment, a factor behind the growing resistance.
The research will be in collaboration with Leeds University, with Avacta owning the commercial rights to any successful product developed.
Shares moved 10.1% higher to 108.5p as news of the grant reached the market.
This is not the first high profile problem that Avacta’s scientists have tackled. In June it reported a breakthrough in speeding up diagnosis of the Zika virus.
The condition, which has spread from Brazil to parts of Europe and the US, can cause birth defects if contracted by expectant mothers.