Investment in International Dementia Research Institute

08 October 2014

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is today supporting the Prime Minister’s efforts to find a cure for dementia and help carers and patients living with the disease by calling for the Government and private sector to come together and fund an International Dementia Research Institute.

 

Dementia is one of society’s greatest health challenges and one of the most important issues the country faces as its population ages. In London alone, there are currently more than 72,000 people living with the illness. By 2015, 850,000 older people will be diagnosed with the disease in the UK and if current trends stay the same this number is expected to pass two million by 2051. Latest research estimates that the cost of dementia to the UK has hit £26 billion* a year and £604billion worldwide** - far exceeding the cost to the economy of cancer and heart disease. Despite the scale of the problem, in the last 15 years only three new drugs have come to market.

 

Today’s call from the Mayor comes as PwC submits initial findings on the potential economic impact of an International Dementia Research Institute. Preliminary analysis shows an Institute could contribute £850m for the UK economy and create nearly 2,000 jobs.

 

The G8 ambition is to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025 while the Prime Minister David Cameron launched a ‘Dementia Challenge’ in 2012 to tackle the problem. The Mayor fully supports Government efforts to raise awareness and find a cure for the disease and believes that an International Dementia Research Institute could lead to the development of new drugs and therapies and ensure they benefit patients quicker.

 

Today, some of the leading pharmaceutical companies and charities, including GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Eisai, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society are meeting at City Hall to support the concept of an International Dementia Research Institute which they believe would bring together the disciplines and expertise needed to speed up progress in tackling the illness.

 

This event is hosted by Eliot Forster, Executive Chairman of MedCity – an organisation launched by the Mayor last April with the aim of transforming the London-Oxford-Cambridge life sciences sector into a world-leading cluster for research, development, enterprise and commercialisation

 

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: “Dementia is a major global challenge and has devastating consequences for the lives of affected people and their families, social care needs and economic prosperity. The London-Oxford-Cambridge ‘golden triangle’ has been at the forefront of groundbreaking medical and scientific research for decades, with some of the best universities in the world, a rich array of pharmaceutical companies, unrivalled connectivity and risk-hungry venture capitalists. An International Dementia Research Institute based here would boost our life sciences’ offer, with enormous potential to deliver benefits for patients, families and other carers, while delivering huge savings to the economy.”

 

Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise, Kit Malthouse, originator of MedCity and the International Dementia Research Institute concept said: “Our region already has an incredibly vibrant life sciences base and this Institute would build crucial partnerships between academia, industry, the NHS and social care, so that we can bring new treatments to market and drive a global reduction in dementia and tackle the enormous social and economic costs.”

 

Executive Chairman of MedCity, Eliot Forster said: “The creation of an International Dementia Research Institute to promote national and international collaboration would be a huge catalyst for dementia research. The London-Oxford-Cambridge region is home to renowned centres of excellence carrying out research that is pushing forward our understanding of this disease and how it can be managed, modified and prevented. However no single centre can contain everything that is needed to tackle the challenge of dementia, and it’s through joining together that we will really start to create the therapies that improve the lives of people affected by this distressing condition.”

 

The World Dementia Council recently spoke of the key challenges that need to be addressed in order to successfully tackle the disease – the market failure undermining dementia research and drug development; the length of time it takes new drugs to reach patients; a lack of collaboration and openness with different scientists all over the world and the need for more investment.

 

The Mayor believes that a single-site dementia research centre would address all these challenges. It would do so by changing the dementia research field and provide a single point of engagement for industry and collaborating organisations on the entire drug discovery pipeline – from basic science to translation science to clinical trials, as well as research to support people to live independently and improve health and social care.

 

A facility that enables researchers and clinicians from a range of relevant disciplines – such as neuroscience, psychiatry, genetics, bioengineering and cell biology - to come together would add value by accelerating progress in developing new interventions, and ensuring the UK’s timely response to the Dementia Challenge. It would also enable effective and coordinated engagement with industry, patient organisations, patients, the public and policy makers.

 

By acting as a hub for activity across the world it would greatly enhance scientific collaboration and international collaboration on dementia research and further strengthen the London-Oxford-Cambridge life sciences hub.

 

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said: “This centre could be a game changer for dementia research, helping to accelerate much-needed progress and support the UK’s talented scientists who are already working hard to improve dementia care and find a cure. Alzheimer’s Society has made a long-term commitment to increase funding for dementia research and this institute will maximise the impact of investments like ours on the lives of people with dementia and their families.

 

“Dementia research has been significantly underfunded for too long, despite costing five times more per case than cancer. One person develops dementia every three minutes. With no cure and no new treatment for a decade we need a step change in research funding in order to deliver the next generation of treatments, improve dementia care and ultimately defeat the condition.”

 

Hilary Evans, Director of External Affairs for Alzheimer's Research UK, the UK's leading dementia research charity, said: "If we are to meet the G8 ambition of a new effective therapy for dementia by 2025, we need radical action to enable the research community to make breakthroughs. We must aim for the same kind of scientific advances that have yielded patient benefits in cancer and heart disease. Increasing the number of scientists, improving infrastructure and fostering collaboration will be crucial. Institutes can bring focus and the best resources together to answer our biggest questions in health, and with no effective treatments available, dementia is in dire need of answers.

 

"Alzheimer's Research UK's network of Drug Discovery Institutes and our strategic partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry through the Dementia Consortium are helping fast track promising early discoveries into viable drug targets. We know that bringing different research funders together and playing to each of their unique strengths will create an environment where progress can be made quickly and effectively."

 

Professor Sir John Tooke, Academic Director, UCLPartners said: “The rising prevalence of dementia is one of the most formidable health problems faced by the world. UCL plans to rise to this global challenge with a major new facility drawing on UCL's exceptional neuroscientific expertise and excellent clinical care provided by the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queen Square. An International Dementia Research Institute can forge strong links with patient groups, other centres of excellence in the UK and abroad, and industrial partners in its search for novel solutions to this devastating condition. We warmly welcome the support of the Mayor for this important initiative, as well as the Prime Minister's commitment to galvanise global efforts against dementia.”

 

Jo Pisani, PwC Partner, Pharmaceutical & Lifesciences said: “'Dementia already costs the UK economy £26bn every year and is a significant challenge for the NHS, social care and many families up and down the country. Our analysis indicates there is also an economic opportunity for the UK to create almost 2,000 jobs and £850m through scientists, charities and industry working together in a dedicated world-class research institute.”

 

Dr Lee Dawson, Senior Director at Eisai Limited said: “An institute that brings together the combined capabilities and world-class scientific knowledge from academic, industry and the charity sectors is our best prospect to identify novel life-changing therapeutics for patients and families impacted by these devastating diseases. Eisai Ltd are excited about the prospect of potentially being involved in a truly cross-sector translational initiative to advance our biological understanding of dementia and ultimately identify approaches for treatment.”