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Antibiotics and toxic chemicals - economists in new multidisciplinary research on global challenges


Researchers from the Department of Economics were well rewarded in the UGOT Challenges process at the University of Gothenburg. Four out of six new multidisciplinary research centres will involve economists in leading positions and as participating researchers. The centres will share 300 million SEK over the next years starting in 2016.

Jessica Coria, Associate Professor in Environmental Economics, will take on the problem of toxic chemicals as the Deputy Programme Director of FRAM - Centre for Future Chemical Risk Assessment and Management. According to her, chemicals are typically assessed and managed one after another for their environmental risks, not for how they interact with other chemicals.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that this strategy is a major shortcoming of even modern regulatory frameworks as it is a precarious oversimplification of reality, in which dozens or even hundreds of chemicals are present at any given time and location in the environment scientific evidence shows that the toxicity of a mixture usually exceeds the toxicity of each individual compound and that small, individually non-toxic concentrations might add up to a severe toxicity of the overall cocktail", says Jessica Coria.

In FRAM, Jessica Coria and her colleagues Thomas Sterner and Daniel Slunge, will assess the pros and cons of different regulatory approaches, that can be tested and evaluated. The goal is to provide recommendations of how the current regulatory systems can be amended in order to develop pathways to a non-toxic environment.

Antibiotic Resistance

The Centre for Antibiotic Resistance Research (CARe) also involves economists, one of them is Fredrik Carlsson, Professor in Environmental and Behavioural Economics, and one out of two main applicants:

"Antibitiotics is a cruicial treatment. The use of antibiotics is a very important treatment. At the same time, the rapid development of infections with resistant bacteria limits our ability to treat infections, and there is a risk that even the last effective types of antibiotics will soon be inefficient as well. Since bacteria spread over borders, in particular in this globalized world, this is a global challenge", says Fredrik Carlsson.

In CARe Fredrik Carlsson and his fellow researchers will for example look at ways to reduce the use of antibiotics, both from the supply and demand side.

"The ambition of the centre is also to evaluate and publish a report on the global costs associated with antitoxic antibiotic resistance similar to the Stern report on climate change", says Fredrik Carlsson.

Economists in UGOT centres

The University of Gothenburg will invest 300 million SEK in global societal challenges over the next years. Out of 78 submitted proposals that were evaluated by international experts, only six were eventually selected for financing from 2016. Each centre will be funded for an initial period of three years, followed by a likely extension of another three years. The following centres involve researchers from the Department of Economics (names in italics):

Centre for collective action research (CeCAR) - Sverker C Jagers and Sam Dupont
Participating researcher: Fredrik Carlsson and Åsa Löfgren

Centre for Antibiotic Resistance Research at University of Gothenburg (CARe) - Joakim Larsson and Fredrik Carlsson
Participating researchers: Kristian Bolin and Elina Lampi

FRAM – Centre for Future Chemical Risk Assessment and Management Strategies at the University of Gothenburg
- Thomas Backhaus and Jessica Coria
Participating researchers: Thomas Sterner and Daniel Slunge

Centre for ageing and health – studies on capability in ageing (AGECAP) – from genes to Society
- Ingmar Skoog
Participating researcher: Kristian Bolin