Big Names Such as GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer Invest in $100 Million Alzheimer's Venture Fund

Big Names Such as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and Pfizer (PFE) Invest in $100 Million Alzheimer's Venture Fund
March 17, 2015
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Jeremy Hunt, the United Kingdom’s health secretary, announced today the creation of the Dementia Discovery Fund at the World Health Organization’s First Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia. To date the fund has raised more than $100 million.

At the Group of Eight (G8) conference held in London in December 2013, one of the goals set by the leading economic powers was an attempt to find a cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia by 2025. The Dementia Discovery Fund is a product of that goal.

The Fund has brought in pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline , Johnson & Johnson , Eli Lilly and Company , Pfizer Inc. and Biogen Idec . The British government set up the fund with assistance from J.P. Morgan. The British government ponied up $22 million. GSK added another $25 million and J&J put $10 million into the pot. The remaining companies filled out the initial $100 million. At a later stage, interested investors will have the opportunity to invest in the fund.

“It’s tough to crack but the science is moving,” said Patrick Vallance, GSK’s head of research and development in a statement. “People are now beginning to look at subsets of dementia and the genetics of neurodegeneration, so there are real opportunities.”

In the past 15 years, only three dementia drugs have come to market. The Alzheimer’s Association indicates there are only five FDA-approved Alzheimer’s drugs, and they treat symptoms, as opposed to treating the underlying causes of the disease.

Those five drugs approved are Aricept, manufactured by Pfizer, Razadyne and Namenda (Forest Pharmaceuticals), Exelon (Novartis AG and Cognex (Pfizer). Aricept was approved by the FDA in 1993 and Cognex in 1993. Razadyne, Namenda and Exelon were approved in 2001, 2003 and 2000, respectively.

The Dementia Discovery Fund will behave similar to a venture capital fund, helping to identify promising directions for Alzheimer’s research and dementia, then assist in financing continuing research, development and, with any luck, commercialization.

“The venture capital fund will choose projects based on the most promising science, the fastest time to patients and the fastest time to results,” said Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer and global head of pharmaceuticals for Johnson & Johnson in a statement. Initially the fund expects at least 10 grants will be awarded starting this summer, with probable focus on smaller, but promising biotech companies that don’t have the funding for clinical studies.

“If we are to truly defeat this devastating disease, there must be a bold and determined global effort to invest in medical research,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron in a statement. “This fund is a major step forward in this effort.”

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