Newton Fund call for UK-South Africa partnership grants to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) together with the UK’s Medical Research Council (UKMRC), whose contribution is provided by the UK’s Newton Fund, has the pleasure of announcing a R9 million funding opportunity to foster innovation in addressing antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The research will be conducted through partnerships between South African and UK researchers, with the possibility of researchers from other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa also participating. The research must be led by and include work in the UK and South Africa, but can also include work in other Sub-Saharan African countries.

Aim and Scope

The ultimate focus of the call is to foster UK-SA collaborations and provide seed funding that will eventually lead to the development of innovations to address this global threat. Interest in combating AMR has grown exponentially in the last few years and has been the subject of several recent high impact reviews. The reviews highlight the emergence of a number of disturbing trends in the development of AMR and the links between human health and animal health.

These include:

  • The Review on Antimicrobial resistance (O’Neill et al; April 2016)
  • A Framework for Costing the Lowering of Antimicrobial Use in Food Animal Production(Ramachandran et al. May, 2016)
  • Antimicrobials: access and sustainable effectiveness (lancet Series, November 2015)

There were a number of common themes arising from the reviews:

  • The need for greater global awareness and better health practices to combat AMR
  • Better Stewardship of drugs in the human and animal health sector
  • Improve surveillance around resistance especially for ESKAPE, STI and fungal infections
  • New diagnostics are needed
  • New drugs and vaccines are necessary

This call is designed to catalyse initiatives to address the key areas above by establishing UK-SA partnerships and providing seed funding to develop ideas to a proof of concept phase. Through this initiative it is envisioned that we will build a community better equipped to seek funding for clinical validation in future funding opportunities. We are seeking proposals in the following areas:

  1. New drugs for gram negative bacteria (E. Coli, P. Aeruginosa, K. Pneumoniae, A. Baumannii and E. cloacae) and TB. We are seeking proposals to generate compelling data packages for compounds with new structural diversity or mechanisms of action to combat resistance for the microbials.
  2. Rapid point of care diagnostics for any of the above pathogens (excl. TB)
  3. New technology innovations to improve surveillance. How can technology be used to improve and scale surveillance? We are seeking ideas that can scale across regions/countries.

The funders are seeking to support partnership activities in the above areas, and are particularly encouraging activities that will generate biological data (with a view to eventually securing follow on investment); for example, data to: 

  • Synthesise lead candidate and validate the data against the selected pathogen. It is therefore implied that available IC50 (or MIC data) data MUST be included in the grant application.
  • demonstrate a mechanism of action of a molecule
  • demonstrate activity against a panel of resistant isolates
  • generate ADMET and/or PK profiles of compounds
  • Validation of biomarkers for potential use in a diagnostic
  • Funding to develop a working prototype.


For support under this call, applicants must be eligible to apply for funding from their respective country’s funding agency. For the UK participants, standard RCUK eligibility criteria as described on the RCUK website will apply.

All proposals for this call must meet Newton Fund requirements. In particular, proposals must be compliant with Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding rules. For further information see the factsheet 'What is ODA?'.


Projects must start before 1st March 2017. Projects may be up to two years in length and so must have completed by the end of February 2019.


Through this initiative, we are looking to fund approximately 7-8 awards with the R8-9m. It is envisaged that applications will be for a balanced partnership, with equivalent resource commitment to the UK and South African components of the joint projects.

The size of the grants will vary according to the needs of the research project.

A maximum budget of R1.5m is allowed per award (inclusive of all costs), and a maximum of R750,000 per year per award.

The grants will cover direct costs including:

  • Travel to the UK and SA (to promote collaboration)
  • Travel within SA to establish research networks
  • Partnership activities; e.g. exchange programs (to promote collaboration) and workshops
  • Consumables
  • Visits/access to facilities
  • Other collaborative activities

The grants will not cover:

  • Salary costs
  • Indirect and estate costs
  • Items of equipment
  • Research relating to pathogens not listed above.
  • Proposals involving crude or mixed plant extracts. Testing of pure natural products, with some data to be encouraged.
  • Early research projects. The funding is offered to groups to validate existing ideas, compounds, prototypes and not to discover and validate paper based ideas.

SAMRC is managing this initiative, and so SAMRC will be the awarding body. SAMRC will disburse funds to the host institution of the successful South African PIs. The South African PIs will then in turn transfer the appropriate proportion of funds on to the UK PIs’ host institutions.

Assessment Criteria

Proposals will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • ODA compliance
  • Demonstration of the need for and added value of the partnership between UK and SA based applicants
  • Scientific merit of the proposal
  • Added value to applicants’ ongoing research programme(s)
  • Potential to deliver longer term benefit and impact, particularly to South Africa (and/or wider Africa)
  • The uniqueness of the opportunity and expertise of the partners
  • The opportunities for development of capacity and expertise


Stages Date/period
1. Publication of call 17 October 2016
2. Deadline for submitting applications 2 December 2016
3. Review completion and feedback January 2017
4. Award and contracting February 2017


The Newton Fund

The Newton Fund through science and innovation partnerships promotes economic development and social welfare of partner countries. It is a £735 million Fund, now extended to 2021, which has matched resources from the 15 partner countries: Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. By collaboratively working together on bi-lateral and multi-lateral programmes with a science and innovation focus, the UK will build strong, sustainable, systemic relationships with partner countries. It is managed by UK Department of Business, Skills and Innovation (BIS) and delivered through 15 UK delivery partners: Research Councils, National Academies, British Council, Innovate UK and Met Office, working closely with partner countries’ funders.

Activities are in three broad areas:

  • People: increasing capacity for science and innovation in partner countries.
  • Research: research collaborations on development topics.
  • Translation: creating collaborative solutions to development challenges and strengthening innovation systems.

For more information visit the Newton Fund homepage and follow via Twitter: @NewtonFund

Source: SAMRC