The world’s first venture capital fund to develop new treatments for dementia has been launched.
The UK Government, which alone has contributed £15m to the fund, has joined forces with pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Biogen, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly and Japan’s Takeda who collectively have raised the total to £65m for the newly formed Dementia Discovery Fund.
The money will be used to invest in early-stage treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other forms of dementia and it is hoped that an early diagnosis and effective treatment can be found by 2025.
According to figures published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), dementia currently affects 40 million people worldwide, but this figure is set to triple by 2050.
At present, there is no treatment available to prevent or cure the condition and existing medication simply eases some of the symptoms. This is due to the complexities of the brain and the slow onset of the disease – a factor that also deters many pharmaceutical companies from investing heavily in this field.
Indeed, the higher risks associated with neuroscience research has seen the amount of investment this area stand at a fifth of the money invested in other diseases such as cancer.
Dennis Gillings, the UK-appointed world dementia envoy, told The Guardian: “Dementia is a ticking bomb and with the global cost of dementia care expected to reach over $1tn by 2030 we must continue to do more. Research is currently not delivering the results we need. We need early and accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and improved care and support to avoid serious economic and social impacts.”
David Cameron said that dementia is one of the “greatest enemies of humanity” and he believes everyone has a role to play in “defeating” it.
Kate Bingham, a managing partner at SV Life Sciences, which will manage the fund, said that although a cure may not be possible in the foreseeable future, it is highly possible that a treatment can be found over the next 10 years that halts the progression of the disease.