U.K. readies dementia R&D investment fund

Few could fault the United Kingdom for aiming too low. Having seen its CNS R&D chops whittled away by Big Pharma cuts, the U.K. government has decided the best way out of the mire is to take aim at one of the trickiest fields of all with a multimillion-pound dementia R&D investment fund.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron

The fund is expected to start operating within weeks, giving cash-hungry dementia R&D teams a new source of money to tap. Officials have yet to reveal how much cash is in the kitty, but have disclosed details of the fund's structure and goals. The fund is pulling together money from public and private investors to finance R&D programs that could move the U.K. toward its goal of finding a treatment that cures or slows the progress of dementia by 2025.

Prime Minister David Cameron has made the goal a focal point of his spell in office, during which time he has committed to doubling government investment in dementia R&D. Cameron made the promise in 2013 and reiterated it this week. While clearly a positive for the dementia R&D scene, the headline hides a history of relative underfunding for the sector. Even after the doubling, dementia will still receive far less government cash than cancer did in the mid- to late 2000s.

Nonetheless, the U.K.'s dementia R&D ecosystem is looking rosier than at any time in the recent past, with both Alzheimer's Research UK and the government opening their checkbooks. Cameron is advancing the funding boost in parallel to a project to establish an international dementia institute. The aim is to have the institute up and running within 5 years and double the number of people taking part in clinical trials. A semivirtual trial project is in the pipeline to support the goal.

Of course, whether the infrastructure helps the U.K. meet its 2025 goal is tied to the availability of solid ideas about how to treat dementia and proven ways to validate their effectiveness in clinical trials, both of which are in short supply.

- read the release

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