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£30m drug discovery centres launched to overcome pharma ‘funding fatigue’

pharmafile | February 18, 2015 | News story | Research and Development, Sales and Marketing Alzheimer’s Research UK, Cambridge, London, Oxford, dementia, funding, pharma 

Three new drug discovery institutes will be launched in the UK with a £30 million commitment to fast-track the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias.

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the world’s biggest dementia research charity, will stump up the £30m investment to launch three Drug Discovery Institutes at the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and University College London.

The Institutes will be staffed by 90 new research scientists, working on research towards meeting the G8 goal set in December 2013. The G8 goals include designing new innovations to improve the quality of life of people with dementias, and creating new disease-modifying drugs to treat the disease by 2025.

It has been 12 years since the last treatment for dementia was licensed in the UK. These treatments help with symptoms, but none cure the disease or slow down or prevent the progression of symptoms.

The charity says that each institute will be led by a chief scientific officer working with academic researchers based at each of the three universities, and the charity’s own in-house dementia researchers.

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, says: “The Drug Discovery Alliance is one of the first of its kind for dementia research in the world. We’re providing the investment and infrastructure that is needed to maintain and grow a healthy pipeline of potential new treatments to take forward into clinical testing.

“It’s only by boosting the number of promising leads to follow-up, that we’ll have the best chance of developing pioneering medicines that can change the outlook of his devastating condition. We are committed to making this landmark initiative a success.”

The announcement came as a report by the Dementia Forum of the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) said pharma companies are reluctant to invest in new dementia treatments as ‘funding fatigue’ has set in after a ‘history of failures’.

The WISH dementia forum chair Ellis Rubinstein, president and chief executive of the New York Academy of Sciences, says: “Experts speculate that the lack of funding [for dementia research] has created an environment of competition in academia and that repeated and costly failures in drug development have created funding fatigue in donors and pharmaceutical companies.

“They believe this has caused the field to become more conservative, and limited unconventional strategies and parallel drug discovery opportunities.”

The report found big pharma has halved the number of research programmes into central nervous system disorders including dementia between 2009 and 2014. It concluded that “a massive step change in research funding” is needed to address medical, economic and social problems that are expected to occur with the projected increase in cases – to 135 million people worldwide by 2050.

Lilian Anekwe

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