Dementia Discovery Fund created to support global efforts

The fund was announced at the WHO Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia

Kelsey Kaustinen
GENEVA—As part of the World Health Organization (WHO) Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia, the U.K. Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland announced that more than $100 million has been invested in the new Dementia Discovery Fund. A number of pharmaceutical companies have committed in principle to investing in promising research into dementia, as have Alzheimer’s Research UK and the U.K. Government.
 
The Dementia Discovery Fund was set up by the U.K. government with help from J.P. Morgan, and has raised more than $100 million so far. The U.K. government has contributed $22 million to the fund, with GlaxoSmithKline adding $25 million and Johnson & Johnson contributing $10 million. Other investors include Eli Lilly and Co., Pfizer Inc. and Biogen Idec, who together contributed $47 million.
 
The conference brought together representatives from 80 countries and research, clinical and advocacy experts to discuss the steps that could be taken to further the fight against dementia globally. The attendees included 80 member states, 80 philanthropic institutions, 45 non-government organizations and four UN agencies. WHO has pledged to establish a Global Dementia Observatory in order to track disease prevalence and related care resources.
 
“There is a tidal wave of dementia coming our way worldwide.” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. “We need to see greater investments in research to develop a cure, but also to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and the support given to their caregivers.”
 
More than 47 million people worldwide are afflicted with dementia, and given the aging population, that number is expected to triple by the year 2050. It was estimated that dementia care in 2010 cost an estimated $604 billion worldwide, 1 percent of the global gross domestic product. By 2030, that cost could reach $1.2 trillion or more.
 
A call to action at the meeting stated that “A sustained global effort is thus required to promote action on dementia and address the challenges posed by dementia and its impacts. No single country, sector or organization can tackle this alone.”
 
Conference participants called for a number of actions moving forward, including raising dementia on the priority list, promoting a better understanding to foster respect and reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding dementia, supporting technological and social advancements to aid dementia patients and caregivers, increasing dementia research and collaboration, addressing barriers to dementia care (particularly in low-resource settings, as 60 percent of dementia sufferers live in low- and middle-income areas) and advancing prevention, risk reduction, diagnosis and treatment of dementia.
 
“We have been running behind the curve with dementia for a long time,” said Dr Chan, “but several recent events tell us that we are catching up. We must weave these multiple new initiatives into a comprehensive plan that can work in all countries. Government commitment will be key.”
 
"If we are to truly defeat this devastating disease, there must be a bold and determined global effort to invest in medical research," said U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. "This fund is a major step forward in this effort. And it is thanks to the growing strength of our economy that the U.K. is able to lead the way, investing in pioneering research and drug development to tackle this condition once and for all."

Kelsey Kaustinen

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