New science minister Greg Clark has started his job with a declaration of war against superbugs.
Making his first announcement, Dr Clark said all seven UK research councils were joining forces to form a “war cabinet” to tackle antibiotic resistance.
The move follows prime minister David Cameron’s pledge to put Britain at the forefront of the fight against drug immune bacteria threatening to send medicine “back to the dark ages”.
MPs on the Science and Technology select committee have also called for urgent action to address the problem, including immediate steps to stop inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics to people and animals.
The new strategy, led by the Medical Research Council, will involve a multimillion-pound series of scientific studies with every research council contributing to the funding.
It will bring together medical researchers, biologists, engineers, vets, economists, social scientists, mathematicians and even designers from both the public and private sectors - the first time this has ever been attempted.
Dr Clark, who replaced David Willetts in the cabinet reshuffle, said: “This unique collaboration involving all seven research councils will help to drive forward important advances in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.
“The united strategy will provide a more co-ordinated approach to research gathering by bringing together leading cross-industry experts against what is one of today’s greatest scientific problems.”
Four themes for the research were identified in workshops held by the MRC last year.
They cover understanding resistant bacteria in the host, accelerating therapeutic and diagnostic development, the impact of environmental interactions, and links between behaviour and antimicrobial resistance.
Invitations for research proposals on the first two of these topics, worth £25m, have already gone out.
Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC, said: “Researchers have been waging a war on AMR for decades but up until now we’ve had no war cabinet to co-ordinate research on all fronts.
“This is about tackling the problem at every level and in every environment - from labs to livestock, from finding new diagnostic tools to educating professionals and the public.
“One hundred years ago 25 per cent of all deaths were due to bacterial infection. We cannot return to those days.”