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Dementia Discovery Fund raises USD350m

The Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) has raised GBP250 million (USD350 million) from a group of strategic investors committed to developing new medicines for dementia.

The goal was met today with a new investment of USD60 million from US AARP, the global nonpartisan organisation dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age.
 
The fundraising far exceeded its initial target of USD200 million (GBP130 million), making it the first and largest venture fund focused entirely on discovering and developing novel therapies for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
 
The DDF makes early stage venture capital investments to develop novel disease-modifying therapeutics for all forms of dementia. The fund is managed by SV Health and was formed through the collaboration of leading pharmaceutical companies (Biogen, Eli Lilly and Company, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Otsuka (Astex), Pfizer and Takeda), the UK Department of Health and Social Care, and the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK).
 
In addition to the USD60 million investment from AARP and commitments from new investors UnitedHealth Group, Aegon, Quest Diagnostics, British Patient Capital and several others, the DDF has a broad and influential investor base, which includes Bill Gates, seven leading pharmaceutical companies, Woodford Investment Management via Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT), the NFL Players Association, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care and ARUK.
 
Since its launch in October 2015, the DDF has made significant progress building an initial portfolio of 16 investments in drug discovery companies and projects predominantly in the UK and US in areas including microglial biology and inflammation, mitochondrial dynamics, trafficking and membrane biology and synaptic physiology and function. The DDF team believes there is a significant opportunity to develop dementia drugs targeting biological pathways beyond the prevailing amyloid beta hypothesis and to apply insights from areas such as oncology and immunology to develop novel drugs targeting these other biological pathways that may drive different forms of dementia.
 
The DDF is uniquely positioned to benefit from the expertise of its world-class Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) which includes heads of Neuroscience and/or R&D from major pharma companies and ARUK, who collectively have a major network and experience in neuroscience drug discovery. The SAB provides ongoing advice and knowledge, offers insights on different approaches and historical failures, suggests priority areas to explore new approaches to treat dementia and advises on strategies to drugging these new pathways.
 
In line with increased investor demand, the DDF’s team has continued to grow and today it announces the appointment of Angus Grant, PhD as Chief Executive Officer. Dr Grant has more than 20 years’ international experience in the regulation and development of pharmaceuticals, most recently having been Corporate Vice President, Business Development at Celgene. Prior to joining Celgene, he held numerous positions in business development and regulatory affairs at Novartis, Merck KGaA/EMD, RPR/Gencell and SmithKline Beecham. Prior to joining industry, Dr Grant worked at the US National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. He sits on the Board of MaRS Innovation – Toronto – A University Consortium to foster the creation of start-up companies in Ontario. Dr Grant holds a PhD in Anatomy/Immunology from the Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, US. He will be based in the DDF’s US office in Boston.
 
Kate Bingham, Managing Partner of SV Health Investors, says: “Since we first launched the DDF, we have made significant progress in identifying and supporting some of the most impressive science in neurodegeneration. The investment from the AARP is further recognition of the potential of our unique approach to finding important treatments for dementia that alter the course of disease and, potentially, a broad range of associated neurodegenerative disorders. The investment will also provide the DDF with broader reach, access and visibility to the older community, for whom dementia is a growing risk. At the DDF, we are focused on scientific approaches that look beyond the amyloid beta pathway into other areas, such as inflammation, mitochondrial function and the preservation and enhancement of healthy brain cells. These areas are highly likely to be important to chronic traumatic encephalopathy or traumatic brain injury, leading to renewed hope for treatment of these terrible disorders.”
 
“AARP’s investment follows recent US investments from Bill Gates (USD50 million) and the NFL Players Association and represents further US interest in the fund, reflecting the global importance of developing new treatments for dementia.”
 
“We are also particularly pleased to be welcoming Angus Grant to the DDF. Angus has a huge amount of experience in identifying, developing, funding, regulating and deal making with novel therapies internationally and we look forward to the significant guidance and expertise that he will bring.”
 
Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, adds: “Dementia doesn’t just affect those with the disease. It takes a devastating emotional, physical and financial toll on families and caregivers. The projected doubling of the size of the 65+ population over the next generation makes finding new ways to treat dementia, including Alzheimer’s, even more critical. AARP, now in its 60th year of advocacy on behalf of people age 50-plus and their families, is proud to make a USD60 million investment in the Dementia Discovery Fund to help fuel its ongoing efforts to develop new treatments for this devastating disease.”

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