A Cure for Dementia by 2025

Gerald Clarke

A bold statement by the G8 countries has caught the eye of those in healthcare: a cure for dementia by 2025. The ambition of the statement was captured with Prime Minister David Cameron saying “It's a big, big ambition to have. If we don't aim for the stars we won't land on the moon." The aim is being backed with research funding, with the UK to double its investment in dementia to £135 million by 2025. This focused attention on an age-related disease is very timely as in the coming years, with the global population living longer, they are likely to become a significant burden on health and social care systems.


David Cameron announced the initiative as the UK has presidency of G8 2013. His words about the necessary collaboration for the project to be successful have raised a few eyebrows. He said "If we are to beat dementia, we must also work globally, with nations, business and scientists from all over the world working together as we did with cancer, and with HIV and Aids.” In a speech which was the equivalent of declaring a ‘war on dementia’, it was peculiar for Cameron to have used diseases which have not been successfully and definitively tackled as examples. Perhaps though, this is a fitting example as decades of research and funding have so far failed to ‘cure’ any major neurological disease. In some cases there have been treatments developed which undoubtedly make life better for those patients who suffer from them, but cures have remained elusive.


The Uk’s investment will certainly be welcomed by researchers in the field and it is likely that similar investments will be announced by other countries, both in and outside the G8. It also appears to have spurred announcements of investment by other research bodies including £50 million from the Medical Research Council and £100 million in the next decade by the Alzheimer’s Society. This is against the background of increase funding for large scale neuroscience such as the 1 billion Euro Human Brain Project which is part of the EU’s 7thframework program, or Obama’s $3 billion Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies or BRAIN project. With dementia likely to cost governments $600 billion per year in the future this money will be seen as a wise investment, although some may worry if it will be enough.


Of course it is not only governments getting involved in are related neurological disorders and the Pharma Times reported today on Roche’s agreement with Prothena which could be worth $600 million to Prothena. The agreement will mean an initial investment in Prothena’s monoclonal antibody treatment for Parkinson’s disorder with potential profit sharing down the line. As Cameron said, it is likely to only be through the collaboration of publicly funded research and private industry that a cure or even a treatment can be brought to market. The investment is a good start, however it will need to be backed up by sufficient will to make a significant difference.