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Mayor of London calls for dementia R&D centre

pharmafile | October 8, 2014 | News story | Research and Development, Sales and Marketing Alzheimer's, Boris Johnson, London, dementia, research 

The mayor of London Boris Johnson is calling on both the government and the private sector to come together and fund an International Dementia Research Institute to be based in England’s capital.

Johnson is hosting a meeting today with a number of pharma companies and charities, including GlaxoSmithKline, Lilly, Eisai, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society at City Hall to support the concept of an International Dementia Research Institute.

These potential partners believe such a central dementia HQ would bring together the disciplines and expertise needed to speed up progress in tackling the illness.

Kit Malthouse, London’s deputy mayor, says the Institute could cost around £120 million to set up, with a further £300 million to £400 million over the next 30 years to maintain.

Johnson says: “Dementia is a major global challenge and has devastating consequences for the lives of affected people and their families, social care needs and economic prosperity.

“The London-Oxford-Cambridge ‘golden triangle’ has been at the forefront of ground-breaking medical and scientific research for decades, with some of the best universities in the world, a rich array of pharmaceutical companies, unrivalled connectivity and risk-hungry venture capitalists.”

He argues that it is invaluable to have a single point of engagement for industry and collaborating organisations on the entire drug discovery pipeline – from basic science to translation science to clinical trials, as well as research to support people to live independently and improve health and social care.

Johnson adds a facility that enables researchers and doctors from a range of relevant disciplines to come together would ‘add value’ by accelerating progress in developing new interventions. It could also enable effective and co-ordinated engagement with industry, patient organisations, patients, the public and policy makers, the London mayor contends.

Economic impact

Today’s call comes as accountancy and consultancy firm PwC has published its initial findings on the potential economic impact of an International Dementia Research Institute, which shows an Institute could contribute £850 million for the UK economy and create nearly 2,000 jobs.

The G8, a group of the wealthiest eight countries in the world which includes the UK, recently set out its ambition to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025. British prime minister David Cameron also launched his ‘Dementia Challenge’ in 2012 to help tackle the problem by investing more money into research.

Johnson, who is looking to become a Conservative MP again next year with rumours swelling that he may also seek to one day lead the party, says he ‘fully supports’ the government’s efforts to raise awareness and find a cure for the disease, and believes that an International Dementia Research Institute could lead to the development of new drugs and therapies and ensure they benefit patients quicker.

Growing burden

Dementia is one of society’s greatest health challenges and one of the most important issues the country faces as its population ages. In London alone, there are currently more than 72,000 people living with the illness.

By 2015, 850,000 elderly people will be diagnosed with the disease in the UK – and if current trends stay the same this number is expected to pass two million by 2051.

The latest research estimates that the cost of dementia to the UK has hit £26 billion a year – and £604 billion worldwide – far exceeding the cost to the economy of cancer and heart disease. Despite the scale of the problem, in the last 15 years only three new drugs have come to market.

Ben Adams

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