AbbVie joins dementia research consortium

US pharma company AbbVie has joined a global collaboration between academia, charity and the private sector to boost early-stage drug discovery against dementia.

The Dementia Consortium was launched in December 2013 by the UK government in a bid to overcome the gap between fundamental academic research and pharma industry drug discovery programmes.

AbbVie join the existing partners, medical research charity MRC Technology, dementia charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, and pharmaceutical companies Astex, Eisai and Lilly.

The Consortium has a £4 million budget to turn promising academic targets for neurodegenerative disease into early-stage drug discovery programmes.

Dr Jim Summers, vice president of Neuroscience Discovery Research at AbbVie, said the company was pleased to be part of the consortium.

“This innovative approach to validating new drug targets is an important component of our strategy to develop new therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases.”

AbbVie joining the consortium underlines its growing investment in the therapy area, one where it is a relative newcomer.

In March last year the company signed a licensing deal with C2N Diagnostics to develop and commercialise a portfolio of anti-tau antibodies for Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurological disorders.

The company already has two molecules in phase 1 trials for Alzheimer’s, ABBV-672 and ABT-957, alongside ABBV-8E12 for the rare brain disorder progressive supranuclear palsy and Alzheimer’s.

Dr Simon Ridley, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It’s a very positive development to have AbbVie join the Dementia Consortium, strengthening our ability to accelerate the search for effective new treatments for dementia. We know that in order to find new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, we need to explore as many different approaches as possible, and our growing range of pharma partnerships will ensure we can continue to invest in a diverse range of projects to build drug discovery pipelines.”

The consortium has already awarded over £1.5 million to early-stage drug discovery efforts for neurodegenerative diseases. These include projects targeting the immune system in a bid to halt nerve cell damage in Alzheimer’s and a project studying targeting TDP-43 aggregation in frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

2016 could be the year that a new Alzheimer’s treatment emerges after more than a decade of disappointments. Biogen’s aducanumab and Lilly’s solanezumab are both due for key late-stage trial results, which could see them providing real – but in all likelihood modest – benefits to patients over and above existing drugs. However the repeated failures seen in the the field are tempering expectations ahead of these announcements.

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