Pioneering Astra Zeneca partnership on AMR recognised

Posted on 26th March 2024

Today The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) have launched ‘Drops of Innovation‘, a collection of collaboration case studies that show how UK universities and businesses are working together to tackle water challenges.

In collaboration with Astra Zeneca, the team from ECEHH is working to understand antibiotic resistance and the safe limits for antibiotics in river water.

Joe Marshall, Chief Executive, National Centre for Universities and Business said “We are very proud to share and celebrate some recent NCUB member collaborations between businesses and universities working on water projects. Utilising AI to detect flooding, innovating to cleanse water sources and working together to meet water energy goals, are just some of the projects that our members have been involved in.

In this booklet, NCUB presents ten collaboration case studies from across the country that demonstrate the vital role of collaboration in the world’s water.”

You can read the booklet in full here >>

Working with AstraZeneca since 2012, researchers at ECEHH have worked to determine the ability of environmental antibiotic residues to contribute to antibiotic resistance. The collaboration
also looks to establish new risk assessment tools to determine safe limits for antibiotics in river water.

This work has attracted the attention of the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Industry Alliance, the largest international consortium of pharmaceutical companies who have pledged to combat the AMR crisis, and has informed inclusion of antibiotics on the EU Water Framework Directive Hazardous Compound Watch List.

This led to the University of Exeter working with the Environment Agency as part of the Government’s £19.2 million Pathogen Surveillance in Agriculture, Food and Environment
programme. The team also advised the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on antibiotics, the United Nations Environment Programme and UK policy makers within the Environment Agency, Defra, as well as parliamentarians and industry. The team continues to collaborate with the pharmaceutical industry and the Environment Agency on environmentally realistic mixtures of antibiotics, and how these may impact antibiotic resistance development.

This research is one theme of work on the environmental dimension of antibiotic resistance at ECEHH. Other themes include river catchment scale spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria and how different pollution sources and weather conditions contribute to environmental reservoirs of antibiotic resistant bacteria. There is also a work to quantify human exposure to these bacteria and the risk of environmental transmission in recreational water users.

This programme of research is one of the largest in the UK and globally, specifically focusing on antibiotic resistance in the environment, livestock and humans and the group have informed UK, EU and global policy onantibiotic resistance.

For more information on this work, contact William Gaze, Professor of Microbiology at The European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School at

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