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U.K. Govt, Pharmas Form Dementia Research Fund

Brain networks


17 March 2015. A coalition of the United Kingdom government, five pharmaceutical companies, and the foundation Alzheimer’s Research UK are creating a $100 million fund to finance early research into treatments and cures for dementia. The U.K. health minister Jeremy Hunt is scheduled to unveil the Dementia Discovery Fund at a World Health Organization meeting today in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dementia is a collection of disorders characterized by a continuous deterioration in memory, cognitive skills, and the ability to perform day-to-day tasks. World Health Organization estimates 47.5 million people suffer from dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for 60 to 70 percent of those cases. The condition is considered a major cause of disability and dependence, resulting in significant social and economic impacts on families and societies.

The current outlook for new drugs to treat dementia, however, is bleak. A study published in July reviewed the outcome of clinical trials of new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, and found relatively few trials of drugs for the disorder — 413 total from 2002 to 2012 — with only a tiny proportion, 0.4 percent, succeeding to the point of regulatory review.

Dementia Discovery Fund is an attempt to attract resources from government, business, and not-for-profit sectors, for investment in the development of new kinds of treatments and cures for the disorder. The fund expects to raise $100 million, with $62 million identified so far. The U.K. government made the first commitment, with £15 million ($22 million) promised in December 2014. GlaxoSmithKline is providing $25 million, as well as Johnson & Johnson contributing $10 million and Alzheimer’s Research UK adding $5 million. Pharmaceutical companies Biogen Idec, Eli Lilly and Co., and Pfizer are also expected to contribute to the fund.

The U.K. government is working with investment banker J.P. Morgan, to structure and govern the finances for investments, but details on the fund’s proposed operations are so far sketchy. The fund plans to finance preclinical research into the discovery of new drugs to treat dementia, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK. GlaxoSmithKline says a scientific advisory board from participating organizations will provide the research expertise to select recipients for funding, and oversee development through preclinical and early clinical stages.

Partners will then be sought to develop promising drug candidates through later clinical stages, according to GSK. Proceeds from licensing or sale of these discoveries are then expected to be returned to the fund.

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Hat tip: FirstWord Pharma

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