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Eli Lilly, OpenAI Strike Collaboration Agreement Seeking to Discover New Antimicrobials to Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria


The collaboration with OpenAI is part of Lilly’s strategy to combat drug-resistant pathogens through its Social Impact Venture Capital Portfolio.

Medical illustration of antimicrobial peptides at work against bacteria. Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/supansa

Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/supansa

Eli Lilly and Company and OpenAI have agreed to terms on a deal to leverage generative artificial intelligence (AI) for discovering new antimicrobials to combat drug-resistant bacteria. According to Lilly, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses a significant risk throughout the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Additionally, the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in humans, animals, and plants are the primary influences for developing drug-resistant pathogens, amplifying AMR in the process.1

"Our collaboration with OpenAI represents a groundbreaking step forward in the fight against the growing but overlooked threat of antimicrobial resistance," said Diogo Rau, EVP, chief information and digital officer, Lilly, in a press release. "Generative AI opens a new opportunity to accelerate the discovery of novel antimicrobials and the development of custom, purpose-built technologies in the battle against drug-resistant pathogens. This partnership underscores our commitment to addressing significant health challenges experienced by people around the world."

The partnership is part of Lilly’s initiative to fight drug-resistant pathogens through its Social Impact Venture Capital Portfolio. In 2020, the company designated $100 million to the AMR Action Fund, with the goal of presenting patients with access to two to four new antibiotics by 2030 and furthering defense against multi-drug-resistant pathogens. In April 2023, the action fund announced new investments in biotech companies targeting numerous infections.1

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), AMR is a natural process that can happen over time through genetic changes in pathogens and can be spread as a result of human activity. It results in major costs for the healthcare system and national economies by requiring a more expensive level of care, resulting in longer hospital stays and reduced productivity of patients and caregivers.2

“AMR is a problem for all countries at all income levels. Its spread does not recognize country borders. Contributing factors include lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for both humans and animals; poor infection and disease prevention and control in homes, healthcare facilities and farms; poor access to quality and affordable vaccines, diagnostics and medicines; lack of awareness and knowledge; and lack of enforcement of relevant legislation,” reports WHO. “People living in low-resource settings and vulnerable populations are especially impacted by both the drivers and consequences of AMR.”

According to the Cleveland Clinic, individuals with an AMR infection may need to use a different medication, take a higher dose of the medication, take it for a longer period, take multiple medications as a combination, or potentially experiment with other forms of treatment. However, it can be prevented by working with healthcare providers to decide on the correct treatment plan, avoid sharing or taking somebody else’s prescription, prevent the reuse of old prescriptions, get recommended vaccinations, follow prescription directions, and follow common health practices, such as diet and exercise.

In the United States, an estimated two million people become antimicrobial resistant annually, with a minimum of 23,000 dying as a result. These conditions lead to around $20 billion in yearly healthcare costs, an additional $35 billion in other costs, and over eight million total extra days of hospital care.3

"We're excited to work with Lilly to find new ways to treat microbial infections," said Brad Lightcap, chief operating officer, OpenAI, in the press release. "Advanced AI has the potential to deliver innovative breakthroughs in pharma, and we're committed to working together with industry leaders to deliver tangible benefits for patients."


1. Lilly collaborates with OpenAI to discover novel medicines to treat drug-resistant bacteria. Lilly. June 25, 2024. Accessed June 26, 2024. https://investor.lilly.com/news-releases/news-release-details/lilly-collaborates-openai-discover-novel-medicines-treat-drug

2. Antimicrobial resistance. WHO. November 21, 2023. Accessed June 26, 2024. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antimicrobial-resistance

3. Antimicrobial Resistance. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed June 26, 2024. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16142-antimicrobial-resistance

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