from the any-and-all-support-appreciated dept.
Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is to invest $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund, a venture capital fund that brings together industry and government to seek treatments for the brain-wasting disease. The investment is not part of Gates' philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will be followed with another $50 million in a number of start-up ventures working in Alzheimer's research, Gates said.
With rapidly rising numbers of people suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, the disease is taking a growing emotional and financial toll as people live longer, Gates told Reuters in an interview. "It's a huge problem, a growing problem, and the scale of the tragedy - even for the people who stay alive - is very high," he said.
Despite decades of scientific research, there is no treatment that can slow the progression of Alzheimer's. Current drugs can do no more than ease some of the symptoms. Gates said, however, that with focused and well-funded innovation, he's "optimistic" treatments can be found, even if they might be more than a decade away.
Bill Gates gave an address at J.P. Morgan's 36th Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco:
[There] is reason to hope that the insights uncovered in ongoing immunotherapy research for cancer will eventually help us control all infectious diseases. This would be a huge victory for humanity—and potentially a significant market for the life sciences.
Others seem to think so too. Venture capitalists like Bob Nelsen and Bob More have helped raise over $500 million for VIR Biotechnology—including funding from us—to discover and develop treatments for serious infectious diseases.
We are also investors in Immunocore, which is using T-cell technology to help stimulate the body's immune system. Initially, Immunocore's "T-cell receptor" technology targeted cancers, but it could also be applied against infectious diseases.
We are backing companies like CureVac and Moderna on mRNA approaches for vaccine and drug development, which have the potential to help us tackle cancer. This approach is also intriguing as a potential immunological intervention for HIV, malaria, flu and the Zika virus.
And mRNA vaccines are likely to be cheaper, easier, and faster to make than traditional vaccines. This would be particularly helpful in containing epidemics—whether they occur through nature or are the result of an intentional biological attack. Today, it typically takes up to 10 years to develop and license a new vaccine. To significantly curb deaths from a fast-moving airborne pathogen, we would have to get that down considerably—to 90 days or less.
Also at NBF.
Pfizer has announced that it will halt efforts to find new treatments for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Meanwhile, Axovant Sciences will halt its studies of intepirdine after it failed to show any improvement for dementia and Alzheimer's patients. The company's stock price has declined around 90% in 3 months:
Pfizer has announced plans to end its research efforts to discover new drugs for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The pharmaceutical giant explained its decision, which will entail roughly 300 layoffs, as a move to better position itself "to bring new therapies to patients who need them."
"As a result of a recent comprehensive review, we have made the decision to end our neuroscience discovery and early development efforts and re-allocate [spending] to those areas where we have strong scientific leadership and that will allow us to provide the greatest impact for patients," Pfizer said in a statement emailed to NPR.
[...] Despite heavily funding research efforts into potential treatments in the past, Pfizer has faced high-profile disappointment in recent years, as Reuters notes: "In 2012, Pfizer and partner Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) called off additional work on the drug bapineuzumab after it failed to help patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's in its second round of clinical trials."
Another potential treatment for neurodegenerative disorders — this one developed by Axovant, another pharmaceutical company — also found itself recently abandoned. The company dropped its experimental drug intepirdine after it failed to improve motor function in patients with a certain form of dementia — just three months after it also failed to show positive effects in Alzheimer's patients.
Looks like GlaxoSmithKline got a good deal when they sold the rights to intepirdine to Axovant Sciences in 2014.
Also at Bloomberg.
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