In an effort to close the gap between basic research and clinical drug development, several organizations have teamed up to create a new funding opportunity—the Dementia Consortium. Cambridge-based Alzheimer’s Research U.K. and London-based MRC Technology have partnered with the pharmaceutical companies Eisai in Tokyo and Lilly in Indianapolis to award a total of £3 million (about $5 million) to scientists for preclinical research on potential drug targets for neurodegeneration or dementia. Unlike most granting institutions, the consortium will play an active role in the research. The Dementia Consortium expects to fund individual projects to the tune of £100,000 to £250,000 (about $166,000 to $417,000) over about two years, and even double that in certain cases.
“Academic research is turning out interesting leads regularly,” said Simon Ridley, Alzheimer’s Research U.K. “This funding may help to bridge the gap between promising, early stage medical research and new treatments.”
Scientists who are in the early stage of developing drugs are eligible to apply. Potential treatments can target any aspect of dementia, from the underlying pathology to cognitive or behavioral symptoms. Applicants must submit an expression of interest that provides supporting evidence for their rationale. The consortium will review submissions every six to eight weeks. Three times a year, it will choose the most promising applications and work with the scientists to develop more detailed research proposals. For those that eventually get accepted, the consortium will collaborate to devise and complete a feasibility plan, then help run the project with regular reviews and milestone checks. Some of the funding will be used to cover expertise and technical resources that the consortium may provide, including those many academic labs lack, such as high-throughput screening, medicinal chemistry, and antibody engineering expertise. If any revenue results from this preclinical phase, the partners will share it.
“We have direct input from two of the major pharmaceutical companies who are investing in this area,” said Ridley. Incorporating their expertise and experience early on will help shape the research, he said, adding that if a promising treatment approach arises, researchers will have contacts within both companies that may be interested in furthering its development.
Already this year, two other collaborative Alzheimer’s funding opportunities have gotten off the ground. The Accelerating Medicines Partnership, or AMP, a public-private initiative, will provide $129.5 million for research on biomarkers and treatments for AD (see Feb 2014 news story). In addition, several private foundations offered $2 million for Biomarkers Across Neurodegenerative Diseases, designed to explore the links between AD and Parkinson’s disease (see Feb 2014 news story).
More information about the Dementia Consortium, including materials from its launch event presentations, can be found on its website, where researchers can also register to send an expression-of-interest form. The next rounds of applications are due on March 27 and on May 27, 2014.—Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib
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