Dementia could bankrupt us all… The Biotech ‘A’ Team comes to the rescue!

Dementia discovery fund

The fight against Alzheimer‘s with the World Health Organization and the G8 Dementia Summit rallies a collective of biotech industry specialists also wanting in on the battle front. The latest development in the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) includes US Biogen‘s dramatic cuts to redirect $250M into the Neurodegenerative disease venture, and investment into $100M ‘A’ team pot.

Those enlisted include Cambridge Biogen (US) – who have dropped all other investments with dramatic cuts to go to battlestations in Neurodegenerative disease. Their latest cuts include a phase II candidate for Lupus (which is surprising given this chronic diseases’ lack of attention), 2 multiple sclerosis drugs (oral version of Tecfidera and the phase III failure Tysabri) and approximately 830 jobs across the board (11% of its company). We can only hope this $250M in savings was worth the risk…

As we have discussed, previous progress in the Neurodegenerative disease field has been cumbersome and, frankly a little depressing (a couple of late-stage failures mentioned here). However, now Wischik’s team at the University of Aberdeen (UK) has hotted up the field with a break-through Tau-protein therapy in its phase III, and and other areas of progress are sprouting across the EU…

Now Biogen joins the battle, which is also funded by the UK government. Last year, the UK’s prime Minister David Cameron pledged a further 83.5 Million in funding to be channeled into the Dementia fund by the end of 2015, in addition to the initial 20M splurge at the G8 Dementia Summit in London 2013.

Representatives at the G8 Dementia Summit in London 2013 – UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the Director General of the WHO Margaret Chan and UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt amongst others (Source: Department of Health, UK Gov)

Given that Dementia is projected to cost an annual $1 trillion globally by 2025, other major Biotech players include Glaxo Smith-Kline (UK), Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson.

So, the fight to ‘beat’ dementia is on, although there realistically seems little choice to do otherwise, as the UK Health secretary of state, Jeremy Hunt, put it:

We will bankrupt our healthcare systems if we don’t. Here in the UK the cost of dementia is £23 billion… But the real reason to do something about dementia is not financial.”

But let’s not get carried away by the G8 and the WHO’s admirable sentiments of synergy; Money remains the key motivator in the biotech pursuit of breakthrough in Neuro-diseases. And indeed, it appears Biogen is putting everything into its research on Alzheimer’s, with new partnership with 3 candidates being developed by Tokyo biopharma Eisai (Japan).

Let’s hope this additional funding into Alzheimer’s research comes to fruition.


Listen to Jeremy Hunt’s motivational speech at the G8 Summit 2013 here…


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