The Group of Eight nations set a goal of finding a cure for dementia or a way of modifying the disease’s course by 2025 at a meeting in London.
“We have all agreed as a G-8 to work together to find a cure or something that stops this disease in its tracks,” U.K. Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt said today at a press conference. “It is an ambitious aim and we’ve committed to significantly increase research funding to achieve this.”
The officials were following the lead of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has said he wants to find more effective treatments for dementia by 2025. The U.S. is the biggest single funder of research in the field, Hunt said.
“As with most things in science, we don’t know, but if you don’t set a high bar or a high expectation you won’t get there,” said Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, in a telephone interview after attending the summit. “This is basically a challenge to the entire scientific community to say ‘Hey, can you do this?’”
Hunt and health officials from the U.S., Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Russia and Japan didn’t specify the total amount of funds they would commit to finding a cure. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said his government’s ambition is to double public, commercial and charitable spending on research and development into dementia by 2025.
Cameron attended the meeting at which the health officials met to coordinate their responses to dementia.
“We should be using our leadership of countries and organizations to make sure scientists across the world are sharing their work and working together,” Cameron said. “We must make sure as advanced countries we learn from each other about what works, and also as a society that fighting dementia is not just about finding a cure but helping people with dementia lead more fulfilled lives.”
The U.K. government spent 52 million pounds ($85.4 million) on dementia in the 2012-13 fiscal year and has committed to spend as much as 66 million pounds by 2015, Cameron’s office said in a statement.
The Medical Research Council will invest 50 million pounds to better understand how dementia affects the brain, improve early detection and find better treatments to delay the disease’s progression, according to the statement from Cameron’s office. A new research collaboration known as the U.K. Dementia Platform will enable researchers and scientists in the public and private sectors to share data.
Alzheimer’s Disease International estimates that 44 million people worldwide have dementia, and that cases will rise to 76 million in 2030 and 135 million by 2050, according to data from the group of Alzheimer’s associations. The costs of dementia were estimated at $604 billion for 2010, the group said.
No drugs have been found to slow or cure the disease. Approved medicines ease the symptoms of the debilitating brain disease.
“This is the right moment to be bold,” Collins said. “It’s harder than putting a man on the moon, although I hope it will be achieved.”