Ways to talk about AMR / Video chat with Maryn McKenna

Dear All,

Explaining AMR to our colleagues is not easy! I wrote in a 30 Oct 2019 newsletter about what Wellcome Trust learned on this point when they interviewed 12,000 people in Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, the UK, the USA and Thailand — in brief, there are universal themes that improve the likelihood that your message will get through:

  1. Frame antimicrobial resistance as undermining modern medicine
  2. Explain the fundamentals succinctly
  3. Emphasize that this is a universal issue; it affects everyone, including you
  4. Focus on the here and now
  5. Encourage immediate action

But deeper than that, I think, is use of good storytelling that draws the listener in emotionally. On this, I have long admired the writing of Maryn McKenna (author of Big Chicken, Superbug: The fatal menace of MRSA, and Beating Back the Devil: On The Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service) for her use of compelling narratives.

It was my good fortune to recently have a chance to chat with Maryn about storytelling at some length and to hear her think about how her early training in 16th century theater and 20th century poetry (!!) taught her important lessons about compelling narratives! And along the way, we also discuss Kurt Vonnegut, Stuart Levy, the Manhattan Project, and Sherlock Holmes! Yow!


We have some big events both recent (e.g., the communiques from the G7 Health and Finance ministers meeting) and pending events (the PASTEUR Act to be reintroduced, we hope; the implementation of Pull Incentives in the EU Pharmaceutical strategy and its creation of HERA, an EU Health Emergency Response Authority) where we need our storytelling to be at its peak … thanks, Maryn for sharing your insights!

All best wishes, –jr

John H. Rex, MD | Chief Medical Officer, F2G Ltd. | Operating Partner, Advent Life Sciences. Follow me on Twitter: @JohnRex_NewAbx. See past newsletters and subscribe for the future: https://amr.solutions/blog/. All opinions are my own.

Current funding opportunities (most current list is here):

  • MTEC has announced an RFP seeking proposals focused on diagnostics, prevention of endemic diarrhea, and selected antivirals. Go here for the full RFP and search for “FA2.13” to find the infection-focused topics. White papers are due 17 June 2021.
  • GNA NOW (part of the IMI AMR Accelerator) has an open call to identify a novel mechanism antibacterial to add to its portfolio. The selected project would receive resources equivalent up to several million € (to be defined according to project needs); see also this 11 May 2021 newsletter for details. Expressions of interest are due by 18 June 2021.
  • The International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID) is collaborating with Pfizer fund projects identifying and addressing AMR in the outpatient setting across low-income countries or under-resourced settings in middle-income countries. A total of $1 million USD is available in funding, and programs can apply for a maximum of $100,000 USD to cover program expenses over three years. Go here for details. The deadline is 18 June 2021!
  • CARB-X recently announced that their existing resources will be reserved to fund their existing portfolio (more than 80 total awards, and counting, as they include contracting from prior rounds). New rounds from CARB-X will occur only after new funding is obtained in 2021.
  • It’s not a funder, but AiCuris’ AiCubator offers incubator support to very early stage projects. Read more about it here.
  • The Global AMR R&D Hub’s dynamic dashboard (link) summarizes the global clinical development pipeline, incentives for AMR R&D, and investors/investments in AMR R&D.
  • In addition to the lists provided by the Global AMR R&D Hub, you might also be interested in my most current lists of R&D incentives (link) and priority pathogens (link).

Upcoming meetings of interest to the AMR community (most current list is here):

  • 20-24 Jun 2021 (Toronto): International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Diseases (ISPPD-12). Go here for details.
  • 20-24 Jun 2021 (virtual, various times): World Microbe Forum sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS). Go here for more details and to register.
  • [NEW] 24 Jun 2021 (virtual, 9-4p CET): “Promoting Innovative Antibiotic R&D in Switzerland,” an event sponsored by the Swiss National Research Programme “Antimicrobial Resistance” (NRP 72). Go here for details and to register.
  • 24 Jun 2021 (virtual, 09:30 AM – 05:30 PM CEST): Workshop entitled “Advancing Data Technologies to corner AMR.” Sponsored by AMR Insights, you can register here.
  • [NEW] 5 Jul 2021 (online): Royal Society-sponsored webinar entitled “Advances in antimicrobial innovation.” Go here for details and to register.
  • 9-12 Jul 2021 (virtual): Annual ECCMID meeting (#31)
    • Grants supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are available to support participation from persons residing in Low- and Lower-middle income countries! Go here for details. Applications are due 10 June.
  • 26 Jul-30 Jul 2021 (online): Small World Initiative Instructor Training Workshop – training for undergraduate professors in the wet lab techniques, parallel curricula, & pedagogical instruction to engage students in the hunt to find new antibiotic-producing soil microbes. Go here to register.
  • 14-29 Aug 2021 (Marine Biology Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA): Residential course entitled “Molecular Mycology: Current Approaches to Fungal Pathogenesis.” This 2-week intensive training program has run annually for many years and gets outstanding reviews. Go here for details.
  • 24-26 Aug 2021 (virtual, timings not stated but presumably EU-centered): The 5th edition of the annual AMR conference sponsored by the BEAM Alliance, CARB-X, the Novo REPAIR Impact Fund, the IMI Accelerator, and the European Biotechnology Network. The in-person version of this meeting is consistently excellent; the video-based version will have to do for 2021. Go here for details. 
  • 8-11 Oct 2021 (Aberdeen, Scotland): 10th Trends in Medical Mycology. Go here for details.
  • 11-15 Oct 2021 (physical, somewhere in the UK): UK-focused Innovation Mission sponsored by Innovate UK in collaboration with AMR Insights and Oxford innovation. This free event seeks to connect AMR-focused start-ups, SMEs and Multinationals, Academia, Research Institutes, Regional Development Companies and other interested stakeholders in the UK, Europe and other parts of the world. Go here for more details.
  • 16-24 Oct 2021 (Annecy, France): Interdisciplinary Course on Antibiotics and Resistance (ICARe). This is a soup-to-nuts residential course on antibiotics, antibiotic resistance, and antibiotic R&D. The course is very intense, very detailed, and gets rave reviews. Registration is here and is limited to 40 students. Bonus feature: For obvious reasons, the course didn’t happen in 2020! But as a celebration of the course’s 5th year, a webinar version was held on 29 Oct 2020: go here to stream it. 
  • 25-28 Oct 2021 (Stellenbosch, South Africa): The University of Cape Town’s H3D Research Centre will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a symposium covering the Centre’s research on Malaria, TB, Neglected Tropical Diseases, and AMR. Go here to register.
  • 5-8 Nov 2021 (Albuquerque, New Mexico): Biannual meeting of the MSGERC (Mycoses Study Group Education and Research Consortium). Save-the-date announcement is here, details to follow.
  • 6-11 Mar 2022 (Il Ciocco, Tuscany): Gordon Research Conference entitled “New Antibacterial Discovery and Development”. Go here for details, go here for the linked 5-6 Mar Gordon Research Seminar that precedes it.

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