12:00 AM
Jul 24, 2014
 |  BC Innovations  |  Strategy

AD mission in the U.K.

The U.K. government is responding to calls for a dementia therapy by 2025 by securing nearly £120 million ($205 million) from U.K.-based organizations for a series of research initiatives that span R&D from discovery to the clinic. Reaching the target might require international coordination to incentivize investors.

In the last few years, several governments have responded to the looming healthcare crisis in Alzheimer's disease (AD) by launching or joining public-private partnerships with pharmas, not-for-profit organizations and academic organizations (see "Dementia public-private partnerships").

The field has been held back by numerous late-stage clinical failures that prompted several pharmas to pull out and others to rethink their strategies from target selection to trial design. Clinical trials for AD are difficult because the disease progresses slowly, there are no biomarkers to indicate whether a therapeutic is working and the most widely studied target-b-amyloid (Ab)-has thus far proven fruitless.

Mike Hutton, CSO of neurodegeneration at Eli Lilly and Co., told SciBX that "dementia is a set of slowly progressing diseases, and it is very difficult to design trials that tell us if a drug is working. We don't usually know if a drug is working until we get to Phase III trials, which usually last 18 months, include more than 1,000 patients and are very expensive."

As the incidence of the disease grows with the aging population, several governments have concluded that the problem might not be solved if left to the private sector alone.

In the U.K., Prime Minister David Cameron first spoke out in March 2012 for a national dementia challenge-a call to governments, industry and charities to contribute more funding to improve awareness, research and care for patients with dementia. He committed to increase the annual dementia research funding available to the National Institute for Health Research, Medical Research Council (MRC) and Economic and Social Research Council from £26.2 million ($44.9 million) in 2009-2010 to £66.3 million ($113.5 million) in 2014-2015.

Last December, G-8 countries gathered for a dementia summit in London, at which they discussed health care for AD and produced the 2025 goal for a disease-modifying therapy.

In June, Cameron announced plans to double the funding again by 2025.

Now, U.K. organizations have answered the call with a series of dementia initiatives aimed at addressing the holes in the development process. Those holes include a lack of new targets, low predictive value of in vitro and in vivo models, a dearth of biomarkers and poorly designed clinical trials.

Coordinated discovery

Alzheimer's Research UK is leading the drive with five new programs announced since the start of the year that cover sequential stages in drug development, starting with discovery stage research (see "Dementia research initiatives in the U.K.").

Four of the new programs were announced in June, as part of its £100 million ($171 million), 5-year Defeat Dementia campaign. The largest of the programs is a £30 million ($51.3 million) plan to establish Drug Discovery Institutes-a network of institutes for validating drug targets identified in academia and...

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