PHARMACEUTICALS

Drug giants launch antibiotics fund

Some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies are launching a $1 billion fund aimed at developing new antibiotics, a field many of them abandoned in recent years.

Supported by drug giants including Pfizer, Merck, Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline, the fund will invest in small companies developing new antibacterial treatments, according to a statement. Among its goals is bringing two to four new antibiotics to patients by 2030.

The rise of drug-resistant microbes is a public health crisis that has the potential to dwarf covid-19 in deaths and economic costs, the companies said in a statement. Antimicrobial resistance causes some 700,000 deaths worldwide annually and could claim as many as 10 million lives yearly by 2050 if new treatments are not available, the World Health Organization has said.

Pharmaceutical companies have retreated from the antibiotic sector in recent years, even as the threat of drug-resistant microbes has grown. The field has been hampered by low revenue, in part because novel antibiotics are used sparingly to preserve their effectiveness.

Some major players, including Novartis and Sanofi, have pulled back. The industry has instead focused on more profitable fields such as treatments for heart disease and cancer.

The fund is expected to become operational in the fourth quarter of 2020. The effort also is supported by the European Investment Bank and the Wellcome Trust, a health research foundation in Britain.

— Bloomberg News

AUTO INDUSTRY

Ford resists calls to exit police business

Ford’s top executive has pushed back against some employees’ calls for the top seller of vehicles to U.S. police departments to exit the business.

Chief Executive Jim Hackett sent a more than 600-word letter to senior staffers in response to messages he’s received both from within and outside Ford’s ranks to reconsider producing police vehicles.

Hackett, 65, said that while he and Executive Chairman Bill Ford support the Black Lives Matter movement and believe police should operate with more transparency and accountability, first responders “play an extraordinarily important role in the vitality and safety of our society.”

“Our world wouldn’t function without the bravery and dedication of the good police officers who protect and serve,” Hackett wrote. “But safety of community must be inclusive of all members and today, it is not.”

Ford Police Interceptor sedans and sport-utility vehicles — souped-up versions of its Fusion and Explorer models — are a small sliver of the more than 2 million cars the automaker sells in the United States every year. But its domination of the segment has long been a point of pride. The company boasted less than a year ago that it accounted for almost two-thirds of vehicle sales to U.S. police departments.

— Bloomberg News

Also in Business

Google's first U.S. operations center is coming to northwest Mississippi. The company announced Thursday that it will lease a new 60,000-square-foot facility in Southaven, Miss., near Memphis. Google expects the site, which will provide customer and operations support worldwide, to be operational by summer 2021. Google's other operations centers are in India and the Philippines.

United Airlines extended its suspension of flights to and from Hong Kong, citing new coronavirus testing protocols for crew arriving in the Asian financial hub, while American Airlines also canceled plans to resume services from Dallas/Fort Worth. Hong Kong updated its covid-19 prevention and control measures this week, requiring all aircrew members arriving at the city's airport starting Wednesday to provide throat saliva samples.

— From news services