The University of Oxford has announced that £100m will be donated by Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s company INEOS to fund the creation of a new institute researching antimicrobial resistance, called The INEOS Oxford Institute for AMR (Antimicrobial Resistance) Research.

Billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is the chairman and CEO of INEOS, the world’s third largest chemical company and the UK’s largest private company. He formed INEOS in 1998, using his knowledge of chemical engineering and finance to build the company. The company also took ownership of the British professional cycling team formerly known as Team Sky, giving them the new name of Ineos Grenadiers in 2020.

In 2020 he was named the 5th richest man in the UK by the Sunday Times Rich List, listing his net worth as £12.15 billion. His donation is one of the biggest to be received by Oxford University, as well as one of the largest ever to a UK university, and will add to the global effort in fighting one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.

The donation is of great significance to the University, as it will “provide us with a critical mass of people…[and] will enable us to do work on antibiotics that we’ve been dreaming about doing for the past couple of decades” says Professor Chris Schofield. In a video discussing the donation, Sir Jim remarked that “it doesn’t get much worthier than helping save the human race really, does it?”, highlighting the potential that this donation has to further medical research and save lives.

Antibiotic resistance is the phenomenon where antibiotics have reduced effectiveness due to some strains of bacteria (also known as “superbugs”) developing a resistance to many of the antibiotics we use to treat infections. One example is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), whose prevalence in hospital environments is a particular cause for concern as only a limited selection of antibiotics can be used to successfully treat an infection due to this bacteria strain.

University Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson noted that the creation of the first antibiotics was pioneered in Oxford too, being the first place in which the antibiotic Penicillin was turned into a workable medicine. Penicillin is now used to treat myriad infections caused by bacteria, and was crucial in the fight against infections that previously had no treatment such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.

This new Institute will place Oxford University “at the vanguard of studying antimicrobial resistance”, the Vice-Chancellor added. It provides the promise of more pioneering, life-saving research, as well as supporting the development of new drugs for animals and humans to combat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Alice Gowland

Alice Gowland (she/her) is the current Science and Technology Editor for The Oxford Blue, and a Third Year Experimental Psychology student at Magdalen College. She is a cheerleader, peer supporter, and...