Press release

UK commits to new action to find breakthrough on dementia

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Prime Minister commits to new action to accelerate progress on dementia drugs, with a focus on patents, funding and patient access to new medicines.

  • World Dementia Envoy says progress on research has been “achingly slow” and “a cure impossible without a shift in approach”
  • UK launches world’s biggest study group for dementia and a new £100 million research campaign

The Prime Minister David Cameron will today pledge a new drive by the UK to discover new drugs and treatment that could slow down the onset of dementia or even deliver a cure by 2025.

Speaking at a summit of world health and finance leaders in London, Mr Cameron will say immediate action is needed to address a market failure on dementia research and drug development, which had seen global spending on dementia at five times below research on cancer, with only three drugs making it onto the market in the last 15 years. Watch the Global Dementia Legacy Event live.

The UK will bring forward specific proposals on patent extensions, earlier access to new drugs for patients, greater research collaboration and facilitating much high-levels of investment, by October this year.

The commitment comes as the new World Dementia Envoy, Dr Dennis Gillings, warns that if global leaders do not incentivise businesses to invest in research and bring in faster, cheaper clinical trials, they will not meet the ambition to find a cure or disease modifying therapy by 2025.

The Prime Minister will say that much is already happening – with the UK doubling funding for dementia by 2015 and the Medical Research Council using the event to announce the creation of the world’s biggest study group for dementia, involving two million people, alongside a £100 million research pledge from Alzheimer’s Research UK – but that more is needed globally.

Dr Gillings, working directly with the UK, will also commit to looking at ways of bringing forward a global fund that could draw billions in private and public investment specifically focussed on dementia.

The Prime Minister will use a follow-up conference to last December’s G8 Summit on Dementia to encourage leading nations to follow the UK’s commitment.

He will hold specific talks with leaders in business, finance and pharmaceuticals to say that the status quo is not good enough and that governments, business and the wider health sector must work together to accelerate progress on innovative drugs and treatments.

The Prime Minister David Cameron will say:

The truth is that dementia now stands alongside cancer as one of the greatest enemies of humanity.

In the UK alone there are around 800,000 people living with dementia, worldwide that number is 40 million – and it is set to double every twenty years.

We have to fight to cure it. I know some people will say that it’s not possible, but we have seen with cancer what medicine can achieve.

We first need to tackle head-on the market failure perilously undermining dementia research and drug development. And we need investment in research, greater collaboration, better incentives for taking new treatments to market and earlier access to innovative new treatments for patients.

We need to join up the dots and create a big, bold global push to beat this.

It will take years of work but we have shown with other diseases that we can make progress and we will do so again.

The event in London is the first of four global Legacy events that follow the G8 Dementia Summit and global experts will use the meeting to examine setting up a global fund that would allow new, innovative drugs to be developed faster.

World Dementia Envoy, Dr Gillings, will say:

Dementia is a ticking bomb costing the global economy £350 billion ($600bn) and yet progress with research is achingly slow. Research must become more attractive to pharmaceuticals so they will invest and innovate.

Just as the world came together in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we need to free up regulation so that we can test ground-breaking new drugs, and examine whether the period for market exclusivity could be extended.

Without this radical change, we won’t make progress in the fight against dementia.

In consultation with Dr Gillings, the UK Government will focus on ways to encourage investment in new dementia drugs by helping innovative research and development thrive.

The work will look at:

  • Giving patients earlier access to new drugs that would take years to become available in the current system
  • Working with manufacturers, regulators and developers to ensure there is a sliding scale that ensures new dementia medicines are affordable to countries across the globe
  • Working with the international community to discuss ways of creating a global fund to bring about new advances in drug development

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will say:

We owe it to the 44 million people living with dementia across the world to find new treatments for this cruel condition. But with the latest research from the LSE now showing that a treatment to delay onset by three years could save the UK as much as £5 billion a year, we must redouble our efforts to respond to this moral and economic imperative.

I hope today will help give dementia research in this country and around the world the important boost that’s needed.

Background information

  1. The World Dementia Envoy challenges G7 leaders to incentivize global pharmaceutical companies to develop new drug therapies, in a similar way to catalyse treatments for HIV/AIDS in the late 1980s. This forms part of the strategic plan of the World Dementia Envoy and the Members of the World Dementia Council to deliver against their six priorities (Finance, Research collaboration, Regulation and Trials, Sharing knowledge, Health and Care and Awareness.
  2. The Prime Minister announced a comprehensive examination to find ways of increasing the accelerating and sustaining growth in dementia innovation in the UK including getting medicines to patients earlier, patent extension and research collaborations. The examination will report this autumn.
  3. The Alzheimer’s Research UK campaign will see £100 million investment across initiatives covering diagnosis, prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Pledges as part of ‘Defeat Dementia’ include the launch today of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Stem Cell Research Centre, a network of Drug Discovery Institutes, worth £30m, housed in academic centres in the UK and beyond to allow promising breakthroughs to be translated towards the clinic and a £20m Global Clinical Development Fund dedicated to supporting phase I and II clinical trials to take potential new treatments into testing in people as soon as possible.
  4. The Medical Research Council has today launched the world’s biggest research cohort for use in dementias research through a new PPP involving 6 biopharma companies, all of whom will be agreeing to commit financially to UKDP in partnership. This Public-Private Partnership ‘the UK Dementias Research Platform’ includes over £16m funding (of which £12m is from the MRC plus company contributions). After a limited exclusion period for consortium partners, all UKDP data will be made available to the global research community
  5. New research by Professor Martin Knapp at the London School of Economics suggests the annual cost of dementia in the UK is approximately £21 billion. The research also shows that a treatment delaying the onset of dementia by 36 months would save the UK as much as £5 billion a year.
  6. As part of its Presidency of the G8, the UK led an all-out global fight back against dementia. It started with a summit in London on 11 December, bringing together health and science ministers from all the G8 countries, world-leading experts and researchers, leaders of the global pharmaceutical industries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to accelerate progress towards effective treatments and cures.
  7. The 2013 G8 Dementia Summit resulted in two significant documents that set out an agreed vision for international collaboration on dementia and a series of high level actions. These documents, the declaration and communique and the full list of commitments are available at: Commitments include:
    • the decision to appoint a World Dementia Envoy to draw together international expertise to stimulate innovation and to co-ordinate international efforts to attract new sources of finance, including exploring the possibility of developing a private and philanthropic fund to support global dementia innovation.
    • the ambition to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025 and to increase collectively and significantly the amount of funding for dementia research to reach that goal.
    • the commitment to hold a series of high-level events throughout 2014 and 2015, in partnership with the OECD, WHO, the European Commission, the EU Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND), and civil society, to develop cross sector partnerships and innovation.

Further information

Medical Research Council (MRC) Today the Medical Research Council (MRC) launched the world’s largest study group for research into dementias. In total two million people will take part in the study which has three main aims:

  • To identify better cognitive and biological measures (biomarkers) to understand better who is at risk of developing dementia and why the progression of dementia varies from person to person;
  • To develop new and improved biomarkers to allow more precise selection of participants for new clinical trials;
  • To slow the progression of dementia by working out how existing drugs, developed for other conditions, may impact the progression of dementia.

This £16 million project – called the UK Dementias Research Platform – is being led by the MRC and has support from partners pharmaceutical giants and smaller biotech companies; MedImmune, the global biologics research & development arm of AstraZeneca; GSK; Araclon; IXICO; Janssen Research & Development in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation; and SomaLogic. The deal has brought US firm SomaLogic to operate in the UK for the first time.

The project will also ensure data will be made available globally to aid international scientists in ground-breaking new research to incentivise innovation, after a short exclusivity period.

Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, said:

In this partnership, the MRC is bringing together the best the UK has to offer - great population studies, a distinguished pedigree of partnerships with industry, and excellent discovery science. It’s a strategy that combines academic excellence and industry strength in a completely new approach to dementias research.

Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) Today, Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) has unveiled a new £100 million Defeat Dementia campaign to defeat dementia and increase research innovation.

As part of the campaign ARUK will launch today:

  • a £30 million investment in a network of new Drug Discovery Institutes in academic centres in the UK to encourage pioneering drug research.
  • a £20 million Global Clinical Development Fund which aims to trial new treatments and give patients advanced access to revolutionary drugs once developed
  • a £2 million collaboration between University of Cambridge and UCL that will use donated cells from people with Alzheimer’s to test potential new treatments

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

Alzheimer’s Research UK is uniquely well placed to respond to Dr Gillings’ challenge to reignite dementia research and development. Planned investment through our Defeat Dementia campaign will feed innovative academic discoveries into the drug development pipeline, helping treatments to reach people with dementia more quickly. It’s imperative that efforts to remove regulatory barriers are successful to allow new dementia research partnerships to thrive and deliver on their promise.

Alzheimer’s Society

At the event, the Alzheimer’s Society will reiterate its commitment, made at the G8, to spend £100 million on dementia research over the next ten years – including £15 million on studies to examine whether commonly available drugs could double as dementia treatments and over £30 million training the next generation of dementia researchers.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society said:

The goal of research is to develop treatments to slow down the condition, understand how people can live well and eventually deliver a cure for dementia. Alzheimer’s Society will spend over £100 million on research over the next decade in advancing care and support today as well as cure for tomorrow’

We have seen the huge progress that has been delivered for cancer research because of a sustained boost in funding and now need the same for people with dementia. Today’s announcements mean the UK is leading the fight in dementia research but our global partners will be crucial to fulfilling the promise of the G8.

Facts and Figures:

Number of people with dementia in the UK is 800,000 and numbers are expected to double within thirty years.

Current estimates indicate 44.4 million people worldwide are living with dementia but with the world’s populations ageing, the World Health Organisation estimates that this number will nearly double every 20 years, to an estimated 65.7 million in 2030, and 115.4 million in 2050.

The devastating human cost is echoed by its huge economic costs. The total estimated worldwide costs of dementia were US$604 billion in 2010. About 70 per cent of the costs occur in Western Europe and North America.