Two Steps Forward, One Back In Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month
By Jackson Stafford
Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month may have come to a close, but the important work of finding treatments continues. Despite drug development setbacks, several major announcements made during June will have a positive impact.
- On June 25th AARP announced a $60 million investment in the Dementia Defense Fund (DDF), an impact-driven venture capital fund that invests in innovative ideas related to dementia. With this donation, the DDF was able to meet its highest fundraising goal, raising $350 million in total. The fund has invested 30% of its available capital into 16 novel-approaches to reduce the impact of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The goal of the fund is to invest in 40 companies and have at least three promising drugs in clinical trials by 2030. This is a potentially transformative decision by the AARP
- We came one step closer to achieving the goal of finding a cure when, on June 29, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $425 million budget increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This brings the total budget for Alzheimer’s research to $2.25 billion in the 2019 fiscal year. This funding goal was originally laid out in the National Alzheimer’s Project Act of 2011. The Act created an Advisory Council, overseen by the NIH, to develop a national plan with the ambitious goal of finding an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s by 2025. If approved, this injection of funding should dramatically improve efforts to treat the disease.
- On June 21st the University of Warwick released a study that was years in the making. The study focused on the buildup of certain types of iron in the brain, specifically the increase of a magnetic iron oxide called magnetite in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Magnetite is not usually found in the brain. Researchers believe that the buildup of this substance could hold the key to identifying and treating Alzheimer’s. Researchers hypothesize that this iron oxide contributes to the toxicity that makes Alzheimer’s so dangerous and advances its progression.
Unfortunately, there were setbacks in June as well. In the last month one of the most promising new drugs for treating Alzheimer’s, Idalopirdine, failed to prove beneficial to patients in its most recent clinical trial.
Despite this, momentum is building. Legislators across the country are realizing this disease is reaching epidemic proportions, and funding is paramount. The bill “Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act” is one example. Introduced recently in Congress, it would create a comprehensive Alzheimer’s public health infrastructure across the country unlike anything before. The program, focused on early detection and diagnosis, could improve and potentially save millions of lives.