GSK becomes partner in new global fund to accelerate dementia research
GSK today announced it will be a key partner, with an investment of $25m (approx £17m), in a pioneering new global fund for dementia research. The Dementia Discovery Fund, which is being established by the UK government with initial commitments totalling $100m, brings together leading pharmaceutical companies, the UK government and Alzheimer’s Research UK to address the rising threat posed by dementia by supporting research into future treatments.
The fund aims to identify and nurture promising new avenues of research from around the world in the field of dementia and supports GSK’s commitment to explore novel, collaborative approaches in challenging areas of research. It is hoped that by providing critical financial support and expert advice during the early stages of research, the development of innovative new treatments for this disease could be accelerated.
Dementia poses a serious and rising threat to public health and healthcare systems globally. According to the World Health Organization more than 35 million people are living with dementia worldwide. This number is expected to triple by 2050, yet there are currently no medicines available to prevent or cure this disease. This is due to the complexity of the brain, which makes finding new treatments for neurodegenerative conditions like dementia exceptionally difficult scientifically. Coupled with this, the slow onset of disease and diverse range of symptoms associated with it means that clinical trials for potential new treatments are very challenging to carry out. The failure rate in the development of new medicines for dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases currently stands at 95% for assets in clinical development, which is about double the failure rate seen in other areas of research.
Patrick Vallance, President of Pharmaceutical R&D at GSK, said: “The rise of dementia is fast becoming one of the world’s greatest health threats, and in order to reverse the tide on this, it’s imperative that the scientific community works together, sharing knowledge and expertise with one another. Today’s announcement signals a unique opportunity for us to translate some of the world’s most promising research in this field in to life changing medicines. This Fund is a really smart way of bringing together great minds and communally increasing our understanding of dementia. It’s also a good way of sharing the financial risk associated with conducting drug discovery research in this field.
“As well as the $25 million contribution we’ve announced today, we can bring GSK’s neurosciences expertise to this novel venture, which, combined with that of other partners, puts us in a good position to invest in some potentially exciting new therapies.”
Venture capital funds specialising in life sciences are a common source of funding for high-risk, but potentially high-reward, early-stage scientific research. The Dementia Discovery Fund will be structured as a typical venture capital fund, but will be the first to focus solely on dementia research.
The Fund will comb the global research community for the most promising early stage research to invest in. A scientific advisory board of representatives from each of the partner organisations will provide expert scientific input during the selection of research programmes, as well as providing ongoing advice during pre-clinical and early clinical development. Partners will then be sought for the progression of promising assets through the clinical development pipeline, the intention being that proceeds from licensing or sale of such programmes will be returned to the Fund and its investors. The Fund will appoint a professional investment manager in due course, which will be responsible for its financial governance and investment decisions.
The UK Government Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt said: “Dementia is a global threat and we have taken enormous steps in putting this condition on the international health agenda. But there is still much more we need to do to give people with dementia hope for the future. That’s why I am delighted to say today that GSK has committed to develop this Fund to make sure that innovative research turns into new drug development. Between us I am confident we can make significant steps in our fight against dementia.”
GSK’s investment in the Dementia Discovery Fund builds on the company’s continued commitment to neuroscience, which goes back to the 1950s through its heritage companies. Today, GSK has in-house research teams focused on neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia at its dedicated neurosciences facility in Shanghai. The company is also involved in a number of collaborative research initiatives with both public and private partners, including the Michael J Fox Foundation, the Innovative Medicines Initiative, the UK’s Medical Research Council and United States National Institutes of Health, as well as multiple pharmaceutical and biotech companies and academic institutions. This varied and collaborative approach illustrates GSK’s belief that difficult areas of research can benefit from researchers in different organisations working together, sharing knowledge and expertise. GSK hopes this diversified and open-minded strategy will address the challenges of neurosciences R&D and accelerate the development of innovative new medicines for patient and healthcare systems around the world.