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Rising to the challenge of Alzheimer's – together

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    Most of us know someone affected by dementia, a condition most often due to progressive neurodegeneration caused by Alzheimer's disease.

    Dementia begins subtly with one forgetting things, misplacing items and having trouble concentrating. As the disease progresses and brain function falters, people with Alzheimer's lose their ability to communicate, to recognize their loved ones and to remain independent – much to the distress of the patient and their families.

    Around 44.4 million people were living with dementia in 2013 and 7.7 million new cases are diagnosed globally every year. With  life expectancy increasing and global population growth, it is estimated that 135.5 million people will suffer from dementia by 2050.

    Researchers have been studying this neurodegenerative disease for decades and although our understanding of the problem has improved, the damage done by dementia is still irreversible and there are no approved treatments which halt its progress.

    This is unlikely to be due to lack of effort or investment. In fact, many attempts have been made to develop ways to treat or prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's. A breakthrough would be of huge social and economic value but, so far, no therapies have made it through clinical trials.

    Old problem, new thinking
    It is against this backdrop that academics and companies in Europe are taking a different approach to this huge and complex problem.

    The new five-year European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia (EPAD) Initiative has been launched under the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). This collaborative research project brings together 35 partners with expertise in this area.

    Instead of academics or companies running several separate drug development trials in parallel, EPAD will establish a European-wide register of 24,000 participants from which 1,500 will be invited to participate in a trial.

    These individuals will be in the early stages of Alzheimer's and will test a number of promising preventative therapies.

    All of the data collected during the study will be made publicly available. This will help to improve understanding of how the brain develops before dementia takes hold.

    Innovation through collaboration
    UCB is playing an active role in this consortium and is a strong supporter of this collaborative approach to open innovation.

    The Innovative Medicines Initiative is the world's largest public private partnership in the life sciences with a budget of €3.276 billion over the next decade.  It brings together funding and expertise from the EU, academic institutions and members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) – of which UCB is an active member. In fact, our recently retired CEO, Dr Roch Doliveux serves as chairman of the IMI.

    Tackling shared problems such as dementia requires the combined power of industry and academia. We look forward to applying our expertise in the areas of drug development and the central nervous system (CNS). Finding innovative solutions for patients through science is why we exist.

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