Published 29/01/2024

By Fiona MacKinnon, Associations and Sectors.

The discovery of penicillin by Scottish inventor, Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928 was a pivotal moment in medical history, providing humanity with its first reliable defence against bacterial infections.

Fleming's accidental breakthrough serves as a reminder of the importance of innovation and investment in healthcare research and highlights the urgent need to future proof our defences against the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The Fleming Centre

Opening in 2028 at St. Mary's Hospital in northwest London, The Fleming Centre will stand at the forefront of the battle against AMR. Through its innovative and collaborative approach, it seeks to raise awareness, drive behaviour change, and develop evidence-based solutions to combat the growing threat of drug-resistant microbes.

By engaging with the public, policymakers, and scientific experts, The Fleming Centre aims to pave the way for sustained efforts to mitigate the impact of AMR. The centre is also a key part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust's Paddington Life Sciences development, which aims to create a thriving ecosystem for life sciences research and innovation in north west London.

The vital role of antibiotics

Antibiotics such as penicillin transformed modern medicine. Before their discovery, minor injuries or common infections could prove fatal. However, overuse and misuse of antibiotics have accelerated resistance among bacteria, rendering some infections untreatable. Drug innovation has not kept pace with this evolutionary arms race. Without concerted efforts to develop new solutions, we risk returning to a pre-antibiotic era.

"Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most urgent health risks of our time and threatens to undo a century of medical progress".

Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO)

Securing the next century of health

The UK government's recent investment in manufacturing, research, and The Fleming Centre are prudent steps towards tackling this challenge and will begin this movement for change. The centre's transformative new approach to solving a global issue can be shared and adapted to local contexts, from Sao Paulo to Mumbai.

To ensure that new treatments reach patients, it is important to support the entire process from drug discovery to scaled manufacturing, this will help to provide effective and efficient healthcare solutions to those in need. However, truly future-proofing health requires a multifaceted approach. Strategies must address appropriate antibiotic prescribing, infection control, public education, and international coordination on resistance. Health systems need flexibility to respond to evolving microbial threats. And crucially, funding for foundational research is essential to open new therapeutic avenues.

2028 marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of penicillin and we should reflect on how far medicine has come thanks to visionary discoveries like Fleming's. This centenary must also spark renewed efforts to sustain antibiotic innovation. With collective commitment, we can future-proof antimicrobial defences for the next 100 years of healthcare.

Scotland's Life Sciences Sector

Life sciences, which encompasses a vast range of specialisations from agriculture to medicine, account for 87 per cent of delegate days held in Scotland which shows the continuation of the dominance and importance of this sector to the country.

Conferences play a crucial role in fostering conversations and creating opportunities for engagement, which can have a significant impact on research.

Scotland's research is highly regarded globally, with its universities being cited more frequently by researchers worldwide compared to any other country. Additionally, the country's research and innovation centres attract substantial funding, further bolstering the impact of its research endeavours. These collective elements, and the fact that many of the academics and professionals working in Scotland are members of international associations, mean Scotland is a key destination for conferences.

To find out more about The Fleming Centre visit -