Today the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt announced plans for a $100m global Dementia Discovery Fund at the inaugural WHO Global Action Against Dementia meeting in Geneva. Alzheimer’s Research UK is delighted to be part of this unique and innovative initiative, a world first for dementia research.
What is the Fund?
The Investment Fund will bring much needed new money into dementia research, but importantly also represents a new way of doing things. It will ensure some of the best minds in commercial drug discovery focus their efforts on dementia, widening the breadth of focus in the area and increasing our chances of success.
The fund will be based on a venture capital model, which has proved successful in other disease areas, using commercial expertise and resources to scour the globe for the research ideas that offer the greatest potential to be turned into treatments as quickly as possible. This has never been tried before in dementia.
Partners in the fund (including Biogen, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Lilly and Pfizer) will all commit money, which will then be invested in assets (promising drug targets) to support the research that will be required to take them to a stage where they are ready to be tested in the clinic. Once they reach this stage the Fund will look to licence the asset to the pharmaceutical industry, or other relevant partner, and therefore receive a return on the initial investment. This creates a structure for Alzheimer’s Research UK that, most importantly, provides much need to new investment into dementia research, but also offers the opportunity for Alzheimer’s Research UK to share in the potential profits of any successful treatment – which we would then reinvest into dementia research. The primary motivation for Alzheimer’s Research UK is not the return on investment; history tells us the chances of return in dementia drug discovery are low (although the size of the financial return ten or 15 years in the future could be large if we are successful), but that we are part of an innovative new funding initiative that increases the chances of getting treatments to the 850,000 people in the UK with dementia and the millions who will develop the disease in the coming years.
How it complements existing Alzheimer’s Research UK initiatives
At Alzheimer’s Research UK we have developed a number of key strategic initiatives aimed at getting treatments to patients as quickly as possible (see blogs on the Drug Discovery Alliance and Dementia Consortium as examples) and the investment fund complements these. It will harness the combined expertise and resources of government, the private sector, and the leading dementia research charity to scour the globe for promising assets that offer the best chance of being turned into effective treatments.