Five biopharma giants are joining the U.K. government and its leading charity against dementia to create a $100 million fund aimed at financing research into the condition.
Biogen Idec, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer are among partners that have committed to contribute toward the Dementia Discovery Fund, as is Alzheimer’s Research U.K. The new fund aims to translate the research it funds into new drugs for the condition—the most common form of which, Alzheimer’s disease, has proven extremely difficult to target through new drugs.
GSK has committed to investing $25 million, followed by the U.K. government with $22 million that officials said last fall would be set aside for the fund. J&J has committed another $10 million, with the rest of the investment to be divided among the other partners.
The new fund is a unique collaboration, bringing together the combined expertise of government, financial, industry, and charity partners,” U.K. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in remarks prepared for delivery at the World Health Organization’s First Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia, where the fund was to have been announced today. “It marks a global consensus that research needs greater priority and that new sources of finance are needed to translate the best science into effective treatments.”
Another partner in the fund, J.P. Morgan, said it will provide financial advice to the government as well as help identify private sector investment opportunities through its knowledge and experience of the healthcare industry. J.P. Morgan said clients of the firm are expected to combine their expertise and resources with the biopharma giants, national research organizations, and government through the fund.
“With only three new dementia-treatment drugs approved in the past 15 years, it is clear that public-private partnership will be essential to accelerate funding and overcome this global health issue,” Daniel Pinto, CEO of J.P. Morgan EMEA, said in a statement issued by the firm.
Developers of Alzheimer’s treatments have long struggled to create successful new drugs. Only a handful of drug successes have ever reached the market, and even they merely slow progression of symptoms six to 12 months. In July, a Cleveland Clinic study found a 99.6% failure rate of clinical trials for Alzheimer's drug candidates between 2002 and 2012.
During 2012, for example, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy unit and Pfizer ended development of bapineuzumab after it missed co-primary clinical endpoints in Phase III studies of patients who are, and aren’t, ApoE4 carriers. Eli Lilly’s solanezumab missed Phase III cognitive and functional primary endpoints against beta-amyloid plaques, but showed potential benefit in people with milder forms of Alzheimer’s.
Solanezumab is being assessed further in three studies now recruiting patients, according to Clinicaltrials.gov: One comparing progress of mild Alzheimer's disease in participants on solanezumab versus those taking placebo; a trial assessing solanezumab in older adults at possible risk for memory loss; and another trial assessing the safety, tolerability and biomarker efficacy of solanezumab and Roche’s gantenerumab in patients with an autosomal dominant Alzheimer's disease (ADAD) mutation.
In December 2014, GSK sold its Alzheimer’s compound SB742457, a selective 5-HT6 receptor antagonist, to Roivant Neurosciences, a subsidiary of Roivant Sciences. Roivant said at the time it planned to advance the compound into Phase III studies this year; five earlier clinical studies of SB742457 have been completed, according to Clinicaltrials.gov.
Dementia affects 44 million people worldwide, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International—up from an estimated 35 million in 2010, with the number expected to climb to 135 million people by 2050. There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
“If we are to truly defeat this devastating disease, there must be a bold and determined global effort to invest in medical research. This fund is a major step forward in this effort,” UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement.