The Fleming Fund was established by the UK Government in response to the UK AMR Review, also known as the Jim O’Neill Review, published in 2016. The O’Neill review predicted that up to 10 million people per year could die worldwide from drug resistant infections by 2050 if action isn’t taken.
The Fleming Fund’s objectives align with recommendations set out in Chapter 3 of the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015. This chapter specifically notes that “no single nation can act alone on such transnational threats” and identifies that countries and regions with weak health systems are especially vulnerable.
The Fleming Fund also helps to deliver the international objectives set out in the UK’s 20-year vision for antimicrobial resistance to 2030 and in the UK five-year action plan for AMR 2019-2024. Through both documents, the UK Government has confirmed its commitment to supporting global efforts to address AMR in order to protect the UK including building capacity in LMICs for stronger surveillance, access to new health technologies, stewardship and treatment protocols, and monitoring the quality of antimicrobial medicines.
The Government’s commitment to tackling AMR was reiterated in 2019 when it was identified as a priority area in the Conservative Party Manifesto. The centring of AMR as a policy priority in the UK has been driven by Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK Special Envoy for AMR and the previous Chief Medical Officer for England.
Sir Alexander Fleming
The Fleming Fund is named after Sir Alexander Fleming, the scientist who discovered penicillin and contributed to the development of the world’s first antibiotic drug.
Fleming was born in Scotland in 1881 but moved to London at the age of 13 and later trained as a doctor. During World War I he worked as a battlefield doctor, returning to London after the war to study antibacterial substances. In 1928, he discovered penicillin after returning from a holiday to find mould (penicillium) growing on some of his bacterial culture plates. He was knighted for his discovery in 1944. He and his colleagues were later awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945.
Within his Nobel acceptance speech, Fleming warned that resistance to penicillin could easily develop if the drug was not used correctly.
But I would like to sound one note of warning… The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.
Today the Fleming Fund is working to tackle the prevalence of antibiotic resistance which has grown in recent years as a result of misuse in humans, animals and agriculture.