The Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) today announces a $50 million investment from Bill Gates. The investment is Gates’ first to accelerate progress toward disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. Mr Gates made the announcement on his blog.
The DDF, managed by SV Health, is a unique venture fund focused entirely on discovering and developing novel therapies for dementia and was formed through the collaboration of leading pharmaceutical companies, the UK Department of Health and the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK).
Since its launch in October 2015, the DDF has made significant progress building an initial portfolio of 12 investments in drug discovery companies and projects predominantly in the UK and US in areas including microglial biology and inflammation, mitochondrial dynamics, trafficking and membrane biology and synaptic physiology and function. The DDF team believes there is a significant opportunity to develop dementia drugs targeting biological pathways beyond the prevailing amyloid beta hypothesis and to apply insights from areas such as oncology and immunology to develop novel drugs targeting these other biological pathways that may drive different forms of dementia.
The DDF is uniquely positioned to benefit from the expertise of its world-class Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) which includes heads of Neuroscience and/or R&D from seven major pharma companies (Biogen, GSK, J&J, Eli Lilly and Company, Otsuka (Astex), Pfizer and Takeda) and ARUK, who collectively have a large network and experience in neuroscience drug discovery. The SAB provides ongoing advice and knowledge, offers insights on different approaches and historical failures, suggests priority areas to explore new approaches to treat dementia and advises on strategies to drugging these new pathways.
With this increased investor demand the DDF team will grow, including the appointment of a Chief Executive to lead the organisation.
Kate Bingham, Managing Partner of SV, said: “Our ambition at launch was to identify and deliver new drug approaches for tackling dementia. Two years on, the DDF has made significant strides towards achieving that, attracting global investment and some of the most impressive teams, companies and entrepreneurs working in neurodegeneration research. In the first example of its kind in dementia, the DDF has now brought together funding from the private sector, charity and industry, and we’re especially pleased to get so much interest from the US in a British fund. We welcome Bill Gates’ involvement as we collaborate to solve one of the biggest issues in global healthcare. We look forward to the growing deal flow and next stages of development in the companies that the fund supports.”
Bill Gates added: “I believe we are at a turning point in Alzheimer’s research and development, which the Dementia Discovery Fund is playing an important role in by exploring new approaches to treat the disease. This is a frontier where we can dramatically improve human life. It’s a miracle that people are living so much longer, but longer life expectancies alone are not enough. People should be able to enjoy their later years – and we need a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s to fulfil that. I’m excited to join the fight and can’t wait to see what happens next.”
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive, Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The gravity of the impact of dementia increases every day and the millions affected worldwide desperately need effective treatment options. We’re seeing a step change in global ambitions around tackling dementia, both in understanding the diseases behind the condition and translating the most innovative ideas towards new therapies. I believe that the DDF offers an ideal approach for accelerating the search for new treatments, investing in nimble and innovative drug discovery work in small, focused projects and companies, which have the advantage of being cost and time effective. We welcome today’s fresh investment in the DDF – with growing investment and advancing science across the world, we are on the cusp of making significant breakthroughs for people with dementia and their families.”
Patrick Vallance, President, Pharmaceuticals R&D, GSK, said: “Dementia is one of the biggest challenges of global healthcare today and it’s a challenge that isn’t going to be solved by working in silos. To address the growing burden of dementia, we must collaborate and invest in the early science to really enhance our understanding of the disease and its complex biology, and then apply this knowledge in a way that is targeted towards making treatments. As a founding investor in DDF, we wanted to be part of a fund dedicated to rooting out the new, exciting, different ideas outside of the mainstream, with the focus needed to tackle dementia in the right way.”
Dan Skovronsky, Senior Vice President of Clinical and Product Development, Eli Lilly and Company, said: “The DDF is an excellent example of early-stage researchers collaborating with pharmaceutical companies to facilitate ground-breaking work in biotechnology. At Lilly, we’re pleased to support the Fund as it aims to uncover new biological targets, works with some of the top scientists around the world, and translates new science into what we hope will make a meaningful medicine for patients and support caregivers.”
Doug Giordano, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Business Development, Pfizer, said: “Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is one of the greatest healthcare challenges facing the world today. Forty-seven million people were living with dementia in 2015 and this is projected to nearly double every 20 years. The work that the DDF and its companies are doing has enormous potential to produce treatments that could arrest the course of dementia and we look forward to continuing to support these efforts.”
Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson, said: “We are excited about this new partnership to advance the future of brain health. Together with the DDF, Johnson & Johnson is working collaboratively with industry, government, and other partners to support leading researchers and fund promising new science. Together we are advancing brain research, studying innovative, potentially disease-modifying treatments for patients with dementia. We are hugely impressed by the progress made by the DDF to date and the support that it has received from international investors.”