Alumnus in focus: Malin Grape is the world's first AMR Ambassador

11 April 2022

Malin Grape, AMR-Ambassador and alumnus

Malin Grape, AMR-Ambassador and alumnus

“Sweden has a very distinctive voice in antibiotic matters that both the EU and the world listen to, and we must use it," states Malin Grape, Swedish ambassador against antimicrobial resistance and alumnus at the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Thursday 20 January this year, medical journal The Lancet published a study that estimated that 1.3 million people died in 2019 as a result of infections caused by resistant bacteria. This makes antimicrobial resistance (AMR) one of the world's most common causes of death, and just weeks after the publication, the government announced that Sweden, as the first country in the world, had appointed an AMR Ambassador.

“Everything happened very fast. I was offered the position during a telephone conversation with the Secretary of State, and even though it comes with great challenges, the content aligns so precisely with my experiences and interests that I accepted without hesitation. Now I have eighteen months to fulfil all the expectations and goals that come with the role, and it is definitely a task that inspires,” states Malin Grape from her new office at the Ministry of Social Affairs.

It is not entirely surprising that Sweden is leading the way with an ambassador to strengthen global protection against antibiotic resistance. Already early on, our country began a long-term work in the field; In 1986, we launched the world's first ban on providing animals antibiotics for growth-promoting purposes, and today we have, in a global comparison, an overall low antibiotic consumption. Sweden also lead several internationally important initiatives, not least the Uppsala coordinated ReAct and newly initiated ENABLE-2.

ENABLE-2 supports development of new antibiotics
ENABLE-2 supports development of new antibiotics

“These are two very good examples of how we must work to handle the complex challenges antimicrobial resistance presents us with. ENABLE-2 provides important support in the development of new antibiotics, which is absolutely necessary. ReAct has a strong role in pursuing policy issues at a global level, not least to provide low-resource countries with the conditions required to reverse the trend. In fact, Sweden has a very distinctive voice in antibiotic matters that both the EU and the world listen to, and we must use it.”

Malin Grape brings extensive experience of international collaboration to her new position. During eight years as Head of the Swedish Public Health Agency's Unit for Antibiotics and Care Hygiene, she was in charge of the development of the World Health Organization's global monitoring system for antibiotic resistance, GLASS, and also had a central position in the pan-European initiative Joint Action on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare-Associated Infections, JAMRAI.

“In my role at the Public Health Agency, my professional network reached all over the world and in some of previous assignments I often worked onsite. As an AMR ambassador, an international perspective is necessary, and I am currently preparing, among many things, our activities during the forthcoming World Health Assembly in Geneva and next year's Swedish EU Presidency, where antimicrobial resistance will be high on the agenda.”

As the world's first, and so far only, AMR ambassador, it is also included to fine-tune your own working day. The attention surrounding the position is massive and the arenas many, which makes wise priorities necessary. In parallel with establishing herself within the Ministry of Social Affairs and reporting to its political leadership, strategic ties have to be established. Malin’s current schedule includes everything from interviews with the media and conversations with the British Envoy against antimicrobial resistance to an audience at the castle.

“I received a request for a meeting with Crown Princess Victoria to present our ongoing work, which is something I am more than happy to set aside time for. It was a very good conversation where the Crown Princess showed great interest and was well acquainted with the challenges. My work is simply very exciting, and it is fascinating to see how the knowledge and interest in antibiotics I founded during my pharmacy education at Uppsala University now comes in great and daily use!”