The U.K. government has announced over $100 million will be invested in a pioneering new global Dementia Discovery Fund. Major pharmaceutical companies Biogen Idec, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly and Pfizer have all committed in principle to investing in the project, alongside Alzheimer's Research U.K. and the U.K. government.
The U.K. government has been working with J.P. Morgan to structure the Dementia Discovery Fund as an innovative method for financing dementia research. The ultimate aim is to develop pioneering new drugs to treat the condition.
The money committed by investors includes $22 million the U.K. government announced for the fund last fall. An opportunity for additional interested investors to participate in the fund is planned for a later stage.
Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, said, “There is a tidal wave of dementia coming our way worldwide. We need to see greater investments in research to develop a cure, but also to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and the support given to their caregivers.”
At least 19 countries already have a national dementia policy or plan. According to WHO, priority actions in such plans should include raising awareness of the condition and its risk factors, building capacity for timely diagnosis, commitment to good quality continuing care and services, caregiver support, workforce training and research.
More than 47 million people are living with dementia. This number is expected to triple by 2050, yet there currently are no medicines available to prevent or cure this disease. Sixty percent of these people live in low- and middle-income countries. Already, dementia and cognitive impairment are the leading chronic disease contributors to disability and dependence among older people worldwide.
In 2010, the worldwide cost of dementia, mainly driven by social-care needs, was estimated at $604 billion. Without breakthroughs in effective treatment and care, these costs are set to soar, with costs growing fastest in low- and middle-income countries.
Patrick Vallance, president of pharmaceutical R&D at GSK, said, "The rise of dementia is fast becoming one of the world's greatest health threats, and in order to reverse the tide on this, it's imperative that the scientific community works together, sharing knowledge and expertise with one another. Today's announcement signals a unique opportunity for us to translate some of the world's most promising research in this field in to life changing medicines. This Fund is a really smart way of bringing together great minds and communally increasing our understanding of dementia. It's also a good way of sharing the financial risk associated with conducting drug discovery research in this field.”
The Fund will comb the global research community for the most promising early stage research in which to invest. A scientific advisory board of representatives from each partner organization will provide expert scientific input during the selection of research programs, as well as ongoing advice during preclinical and early clinical development. Partners will then be sought for the progression of promising assets through the clinical development pipeline, the intention being that proceeds from licensing or sale of such programs will be returned to the Fund and its investors. The Fund will appoint a professional investment manager to be responsible for its financial governance and investment decisions.