brainscanA group comprising pharmaceutical companies, a dementia research charity and the government have committed in principle to investing some $100 million (£67 million) into a global Dementia Discovery Fund, which aims to develop new drugs to treat the condition. 

Pharmaceutical companies Biogen, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Lilly and Pfizer have all committed in principle to investing in the project, along with Alzheimer’s Research UK and the government. The commitment was announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first ever conference on dementia on March 17.

These commitments mark a significant first step towards launching the ground-breaking fund. The companies involved will be working together on the coming months to develop the fund further.  

Dementia is recognised as one of the world’s biggest health and care challenges, affecting more than 47 million people worldwide and at a cost to the global economy of more than $604 billion every year. 

Yet, in spite of the huge social and economic cost, only 3 dementia drugs have come to market in the past 15 years. To address this, the government has been working with JP 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. 

“Dementia is a global threat and we have taken enormous steps in putting this condition firmly on the international health agenda,” Hunt said at the WHO conference on dementia. “But there is still much more we need to do to give people with dementia hope for the future. 

“That’s why I am delighted to announce… that we have secured commitments from major partners to develop a new global Fund to make sure that innovative research turns into the development and manufacture of new drugs. 

“This is another significant step forward in our fight against this condition.”

Dr Matthew Norton, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, added: “The Discovery 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. 

“At Alzheimer’s Research UK we have developed a number of key strategic initiatives aimed at getting treatments to patients as quickly as possible and the Dementia Discovery 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.”