The National University of Singapore (NUS) has received a $1.8m (S$2.5m) grant from the Wellcome Trust to launch the Asian Clinical Research Network (ACRN), which will focus on addressing drug-resistant infections.

For the treatment and prevention of such infections, ACRN will carry out antimicrobial clinical research to create the most efficient approaches.

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Hosted by the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, the network is the first-of-its-kind established in Asia with a focus on drug-resistant infections.

Similar networks are operating in Europe, the US and Australia, and ACRN aims to work with these networks in the future.

The NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health will collaborate with its partners in Singapore to perform clinical trials in antimicrobial resistance.

These partners are the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Duke-NUS Medical School, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine in Nanyang Technological University and National Centre for Infectious.

Each organisation has agreed to provide $368,745 (S$500,000) to ACRN, raising the network’s total funding to $3.68m (S$5m).

Furthermore, the Singapore Clinical Research Institute will help deploy ACRN.

NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health vice-dean (Global Health) associate professor Hsu Li Yang said: “A clinical research network based in Asia will significantly increase the quality and efficiency of clinical trials in the region, resulting in an improved understanding of drug-resistant infections, improved treatment of those infections and an increase in the supply of new drugs to fight antimicrobial resistance.

“The joint funding will also spur research collaboration and capacity building both in Singapore and the region to jointly develop solutions to the issue of antimicrobial resistance.”

Antimicrobial resistance is when microbes are resistant to the drugs that treat the related infections.

Drug-resistant infections are considered a global health challenge and may worsen by responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, NUS noted.

These infections are currently responsible for at least 700,000 deaths a year.

In a 2019 report by the United Nations, drug-resistant infections were estimated to lead to ten million deaths annually by 2050, and antimicrobial resistance could cause extreme poverty for up to 24 million people by 2030.

ACRN is intended to boost clinical research capabilities in Asia to offer interventions effectively for drug-resistant infections.

The network will specifically enhance access to clinically relevant and vulnerable populations.