Despite Pfizer’s announcement in January to end its research for treatment of dementia, investments made this year in dementia R&D, particularly Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia, highlight the call for new investments for research to investigate and treat the syndrome. An estimated 50 million individuals suffer from dementia worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The number is forecast to total 82 million by 2030.
Currently, 135 US clinical trials for 112 new agents for Alzheimer’s therapies are underway, according to a paper published earlier this year in Alzheimer’s and Dementia. However, many experts argue that dementia research is underfunded compared to other major diseases. The last time the US FDA approved a drug to treat Alzheimer’s was 2014.
The latest funding efforts span both public and private sources as well as a variety of funding mechanisms. Below are highlights of dementia research funding announcements so far this year.
Innovative funding models to support dementia research investments have become an increasingly valuable source for research spending. Established in 2015, the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) reported in July that it has raised $350 million to fund dementia research, including a recent $60 million investment from AARP. Current investors also include Bill Gates, major biopharmaceutical firms and Quest Diagnostics. A venture capital fund, the DDF has invested in 16 projects so far and 9 companies.
A coalition of funders, including Bill Gates and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) established in July the Diagnostics Accelerator venture fund, which is operated by the ADDF. Over a three-year period, the organization will provide more than $30 million in grants to scientists for research on new biomarkers to diagnose Alzheimer’s. Biotech companies, universities and nonprofits are eligible to receive funding.
Other recent investments in dementia research come from governments, drug companies and private donations to universities. Japanese pharmaceutical firm Eisai announced in June a three-year, $100 million commitment to its US-based Eisai Center for Genetics Guided Dementia Discovery. The Center will focus on immuno-dementia drug discovery and will feature a new 50,000 ft2 facility. The Center will begin operating in early 2019.
Dementia research will be among the focus of Brown University’s newly renamed Carney Institute for Brain Science. Bolstered by a $100 million donation from Robert J. Carney and Nancy D. Carney, announced earlier this year, the Institute plans to become one of the top brain research centers in the country. The new funding will support the Institute’s research, infrastructure and faculty.
In March, the UK Dementia Research Institute announced the receipt a £40 million ($55 million) award by the UK government’s Medical Research Council. The award will help fund a new £250 million ($342 million) facility at the University College London (UCL) that is expected to open in 2024 and will house 350 researchers. The new building will be part of the country’s UK Dementia Research Institute (DRI). New labs for the DRI opened in June at UCL. Created in 2016, the DRI boasts 700 researchers and consists of 6 centers at different universities.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the US committed to a record funding increase for Alzheimer’s research as part of its fiscal 2018 budget for the NIH enacted earlier this year. The new $414 million in funding marks a 30% increase from the prior year. Last month, the US Senate approved $425 million in new funding for the NIH in fiscal 2019; however, the bill faces further debate in Congress.