Dementia venture fund raises $350 million to hunt new drugs
LONDON (Reuters) – A venture capital fund dedicated to finding new ways to prevent and treat dementia has raised $350 million, far exceeding the initial target of $200 million set on its launch in 2015.
The global Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF), an initiative of former British prime minister David Cameron, brings together government, industry and charities.
The total, announced on Monday, was reached following a $60 million investment by AARP, the U.S. non-profit group representing Americans over the age of 50, plus new cash from companies including UnitedHealth (UNH.N), Aegon (AEGN.AS) and Quest Diagnostics (DGX.N).
Other existing backers include billionaire Microsoft (MSFT.O) co-founder Bill Gates and several drug companies, including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and Eli Lilly (LLY.N), as well as the UK government.
Venture capital funds are a common source of finance for high-risk, early-stage life science research, but the new fund is the first to focus solely on dementia.
The DDF has built an initial portfolio of 16 investments in biotech companies, mainly in Britain and the United States. It aims to study potential therapies beyond the prevailing “amyloid beta hypothesis” – the idea that Alzheimer’s can be tackled by blocking the build-up of plaque in the brain.
The fund also said former Celgene (CELG.O) business development head Angus Grant would be its new chief executive.
There is still no treatment that can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, the commonest form of dementia. Current drugs can do no more than ease some of the symptoms.
Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Alexander Smith