Drugmakers Launch UK Dementia Fund

22.10.2015 -

Six international drugmakers, led by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and including Johnson & Johnson, Biogen, Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Takeda, have joined forces with the UK Department of Health and Alzheimer’s Research UK as partners in a $100 million (£65 million) dementia research fund.

Conceived at the G8 summit in London in 2013, the Dementia Discovery Fund is part of the UK government’s effort to kick-start what Prime Minister David Cameron described as a “global fightback” against Alzheimer’s disease and similar conditions. The role of the pharmaceutical producers will be to search for new ways to diagnose and treat the disease, with a target date of 2025.

GSK is contributing £25 million to the fund, Johnson & Johnson £10 million, Alzheimer’s Research UK £5 million and the UK government around £22 million. The other partners have not quantified their contributions.

The fund, whose investments will be managed by SV Life Sciences (SVLS), an Anglo-American fund management company, will work with universities, charities and companies to identify promising early-stage research projects with the aim of helping advance them towards clinical trials.

Speaking at the launch in London, GSK’s research head, Patrick Vallance, said: “This is a complex and costly area of research, and if we’re to succeed in developing new treatments, we must be prepared to work together and jointly shoulder the risk of ambitious new approaches.”

Kate Bingham, managing partner of SVLS, told British media that, although a cure for Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, does not appear to be around the corner, it should be possible over the next 10 years to find a treatment that halts the disease’s progression. What is needed, she said, is the equivalent of a cholesterol test for dementia.

The management fund will be advised by a panel of scientific experts from academia and the investors. Participating drugmakers will not have any special rights over the projects but will share in any returns the investments generate and possibly gain early insights into drug development possibilities.

According to British estimates, the number of people with dementia worldwide can be expected to rise from 40 million currently to 135 million by 2050, with the cost of care touching $1 trillion.

Biogen and Lilly each have one experimental Alzheimer’s drug in the pipeline.