Boost for dementia gene-based therapies

20/06/2022 - 3 minutes

The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT Catapult) and the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) have announced a collaboration to accelerate the clinical development of adeno-associated virus (AAV) based gene therapies for dementia.

Since 2015, dementia has been one of the leading causes of mortality in the UK. While new and improved treatments for heart disease and cancer are reducing mortality, a lack of effective treatment options for neurodegenerative conditions means dementia-related deaths continue to rise. 

Through the collaboration, the CGT Catapult will work with UK academic centers and the UK DRI to identify new AAV-based gene therapies with high potential to become new medicines for dementia. They will also assess a range of assets to best address the unmet medical need. 

The collaborators will then create development plans for each project and potentially conduct early research activities in order to prepare assets for further investment. 

Dementia

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, there are more than 55 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2020. It said this number will almost double every 20 years, reaching 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050. While dementia mainly affects older people, there are cases that start before the age of 65.

There are more than 10 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide.

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In the UK, more than 850,000 people have dementia, and the numbers are expected to continue to grow as the population ages. With no effective treatments currently available for any neurodegenerative conditions, the UK DRI has been tasked with understanding the underlying biology of these diseases and translating innovative research into new treatments with the potential to benefit people at risk of or living with dementia. 

Matthew Durdy, CEO of CGT Catapult, said: “Dementia is increasing, under-researched and has very limited treatment options. Cell and gene therapies have in the past shown to be highly effective in treatment areas where other therapies have had limited success. It is therefore vital that we fully explore how cell and gene therapies could be used to address this unmet medical need, and we look forward to working closely with the UK DRI to identify and accelerate the most promising therapies.”

Dr Iraida Soria-Espinosa, UK Dementia Research Institute senior innovation and business manager, said: “Advances in gene therapy will enable us to make a huge difference for people affected by neurodegenerative disease. Our new partnership with the CGT Catapult is an exciting opportunity to combine our expertise to propel forward this promising area of research and identify new treatments.”

About the CGT Catapult and UK DRI

The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult is an independent innovation and technology organization committed to the advancement of cell and gene therapies. Its aim is to create collaborations to address challenges to the advancement of the sector. 

The UK DRI is the single biggest investment in dementia research in the UK. Established in 2017 by the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Institute is hosted across six UK universities: University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London and King’s College London, with its central hub at University College London.

The UK DRI, which consists of more than 750 researchers, is working on ways to prevent, treat and care for people with all types of dementia, and ways to keep the brain healthy. 

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Cover image: Shutterstock

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