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Alzheimer’s research too risky for industry

Europe is at risk of losing its momentum in Alzheimer’s disease research, as increases in public funding are too low and companies are reluctant to take risks, researchers have said.

The EU-wide Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Disease Research, or JPND, launched in 2010, may not be enough to resurrect industry funding in the field, according to those involved. The initiative has led to greater collaboration and increases in public funding for work on Alzheimer’s, but this progress is far short of what is needed, they say.

The JPND spends about €370 million in pooled national and EU funding on neurodegenerative diseases. Work on Alzheimer’s receives a third of the funding, but a single clinical trial for a potential drug can cost €80m, says Claude Wischik, chairman of mental health at the University of Aberdeen and of the pharmaceutical company TauRx. “€1m or €5m per project goes a long way when you’re funding a basic researcher,” he says. “But to turn that into a product that is useful for people is extraordinarily expensive: a different order of magnitude.”

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