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WHO Collaborating Centre at York University researching international action on antimicrobial resistance

WHO Collaborating Centre at York University researching international action on antimicrobial resistance

TORONTO, November 18, 2020 – Antimicrobial resistance is recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 global threats to public health. In the face of this threat, research is underway to determine what kind of international commitments and frameworks for cooperation are needed to address such a large, transnational challenge.

One year ago, the World Health Organization recognized the work of York University’s Global Strategy Lab by designating it as the WHO Collaborating Centre on Global Governance of Antimicrobial Resistance (WHOCC). The WHOCC has been tasked with providing technical guidance, policy analysis and international legal advice on global governance frameworks and regulations that will be both equitable and effective in addressing this worldwide problem.

York University hosted a virtual panel of international experts on antimicrobial resistance today to mark World Antimicrobial Awareness Week and to celebrate the WHO’s designation of the Collaborating Centre at York.

“On behalf of everyone at York, it is my pleasure to congratulate the entire Global Strategy Lab team on this exciting milestone,” said York University President & Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton. “York prides itself on its ability to create impact and drive positive change by facilitating partnerships between researchers and leaders from industry, governments and not-for-profits around the world. The Global Strategy Lab is an excellent example of the success that is possible through this type of multisector collaboration. By designating the lab as a Collaborating Centre, the WHO has recognized the outstanding work being done by the Centre to call attention to the issue of antimicrobial resistance, and to find ways to address this issue on an international scale.”

The WHO Collaborating Centre (WHOCC) is focused on global governance of antimicrobial resistance, developing new ideas to rally political support and accountability related to global commitments, and providing policy analysis and legal advice on global governance arrangements to protect antimicrobials.

Governments, international agencies, civil society organizations, and businesses will have to work together to address three main challenges related to antimicrobials, says WHOCC Director Steven J. Hoffman, a professor of global health, law and political science at York and the Dahdaleh Distinguished Chair in Global Governance & Legal Epidemiology.

“The first challenge is access. Several million people die each year from lack of access to essential antimicrobials. The second challenge is conservation – to make existing antimicrobial medicines last as long as possible so they work when we need them. The third challenge is innovation – investing in science to prevent infections from incurring in the first place and to invent new antimicrobials, because we all get an infection at some point.”

Estimates from an independent panel, commissioned by the U.K. government a few years ago, indicate that at least 700,000 people already die each year from antimicrobial resistance and that deaths from drug-resistant infections are likely to increase to 10 million per year by 2050 without bold action.

The WHOCC has brought together an interdisciplinary group of researchers, including epidemiologists, ethicists, lawyers, political scientists, sociologists, and policy experts, based both at York and around the world.

“We need to identify solutions for antimicrobial resistance that could not only work in theory, but actually can work in practice,” says Hoffman. “Solutions must be epidemiologically effective, politically acceptable, equitable across populations, and work not only in a country like Canada but in very different settings around the world.”

York’s Global Strategy Lab has a track record of supporting many national governments and international agencies, including the WHO, on research initiatives that are policy-focused, says Susan Rogers Van Katwyk, managing director of the WHOCC, who has a PhD in Epidemiology.

“Our team works on projects that are intensely interdisciplinary and policy-focused. We aim to do good in the world by using science and social science to inform the decisions that governments have to make. We have built a great track-record of doing rigorous applied research projects so we are excited to continue our work on global governance issues related to antimicrobial resistance with the WHO.”

*A livestream of the panel on antimicrobial resistance, featuring Professor Dame Sally Davies, Dr. Peter Singer, and Professor Steven J. Hoffman, can be viewed here:

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Media contact:
Janice Walls, York University Media Relations, cell 416-455-4710,