The leaders of the World Dementia Council are out to fight dementia head on.
Some other dementia-related groups would like to find a way to treat Alzheimer’s disease and similar conditions, if they could. But they have come to tolerate the idea that dementia may be as permanent as death and taxes. They put a little effort into the search for a cure, and a great deal of effort into supporting people with dementia and their caregivers.
The World Dementia Council is still intent on finding a cure.
When the council held its first meeting, in April 2014, organizers set a goal of helping researchers start to develop treatments by 2025. Dr. Dennis Gillings, who stepped down from his post as the founding chairman of the dementia council in February, told a reporter from The Daily Telegraph that he believes researchers can find a way to treat Alzheimer’s disease as early as 2020.
“I feel a lot more optimistic now,” Gillings said.
If Gillings is right, the projects the council funds could save hundreds of millions of people from the misery of dementia. The council could also, indirectly, ride to the rescue of issuers of long-term care insurance (LTCI).
LTCI issuers now spend more than $1 billion per year on benefits for insureds who suffer from cognitive impairment. Success at preventing, controlling or curing Alzheimer’s could eliminate much of that spending.
For a look at other things long-term care planners might want to know about the World Dementia Council, read on.
1. Dementia knows no boundaries.
The Group of 8 (G-8) rich countries held a dementia summit in December 2013. At the summit, the G-8 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — decided to start the World Dementia Council.
See also: Rich country group targets dementia
The United Kingdom set up the council as an arm of its government.
This year, the council has re-formed itself as an independent organization, and it says it has tried to bring together the broadest possible range of influential global leaders, including researchers, investment bankers and pharmaceutical company executives.
The council is working to remind the governments of the world that dementia is a problem for the whole world.
The cost of dementia care amounted to $604 billion, or about 1 percent of world gross domestic product (GDP), in 2010, and that cost is on track to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2030, according to the council’s statement of purpose.
“This is unsustainable,” the dementia council says. “Something fundamental has to change. We need a concerted effort to mobilize a global assault on dementia, in the way we attacked HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 90s.”
2. Money can be useful.
In a report released in 2015, the council observed that pharmaceutical companies had released only three new drugs for dementia in the previous 15 years.
The lack of new drugs was mainly the result of a low level of spending on dementia drug research, the council said.
“The relative lack of investment is a damning reflection of the low priority accorded to dementia,” the council said. “We believe there is a huge scope for innovative [research] funding solutions.”
3. Put scientists in charge.
Gillings, the former head of the dementia council, started out as a biostatistics professor at the University of North Carolina. He later was the founder and chairman of Quintiles, a drug development and support services company.
Gillings’ successor, Yves Joanette, is a prominent professor of cognitive neurosciences and aging at the Université de Montréal medical school. His own research has focused on how dementia affects the organization of the brain.
Joanette sounds a little like a general when he talks about his plans for the council.
“We have to mount a truly global assault to change the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers,” Joanette said in a statement about the council.
(Image: Yves Joanette, World Dementia Council photo.)
4. Investors are out there.
In October, the new Dementia Discovery Fund suddenly announced that it had come up with $100 million in cash that it could to back promising dementia research projects.
The World Dementia Council was the organization behind that announcement.
The council hired a life sciences venture capital firm to set up the fund. The venture capital firm helped the dementia council raise cash from two U.K. government agencies and at least six large drug companies: Biogen, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Pfizer and Takeda.
5. Human antibodies are promising.
The Dementia Discovery Fund led a group of investors that pumped $29.5 million into Alector, a biotech company in San Francisco, in January.
Alector hopes to use antibodies and other human immune system components to clean amyloid beta plaques out of the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Many scientists believe amyloid beta plaques cause or aggravate Alzheimer’s symptoms.
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