2017 marked 30 years of Lilly investment in developing potential treatments to tackle the rising burden of Alzheimer’s disease. This debilitating neurological condition affects some 10.5 million people across Europe, a figure that is expected to rise to 13.42 million by 2030. It poses both economic and social challenges. As we begin the new year, let us look at how far we have come in the last 30 years in understanding Alzheimer’s. High failure rates in Alzheimer’s drug development due to the extreme complexity of the disease mean that it is doubly important to have the right legislative framework for strong intellectual property protection to enable pharmaceutical companies to continue to invest in high risk and expensive R&D.
Despite having one of the highest failure rates of any disease area with no treatment for the underlying disease or cure to date, exploring drug candidates for Alzheimer’s has provided us with invaluable research and learnings. The knowledge we have gained from investing in the development of potential new treatments over the past 30 years is helping us better understand the disease and find new ways to fight it. However, this can only be done if we have the right legislative framework that empowers us to do exactly that. Strong EU intellectual property incentives provide the best system for high-risk and expensive R&D, that, in turn, allows us to find future medical breakthroughs. If we don’t have these incentives in place, cures for diseases are less likely to be discovered, as the risks will become too high.
This year we also celebrated 50 years of research at the Lilly Research Centre in Erl Wood, UK, Lilly’s largest research facility outside of the US. Since 1967, Erl Wood has become the company’s global centre for neuroscience, with a particular focus and expertise on the discovery of disease modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s. In the last 10 years, we have invested more than £1.1 billion on R&D and £85 million into the research centre there. But, investigating potential solutions for Alzheimer’s doesn’t just happen in our research centres: our long-standing collaboration with European projects and public private partnerships such as MOPEAD, EPAD and ROADMAP is equally crucial.
Much work remains to be done. As the European Dementia Monitor released this year highlights, inequalities in access to dementia care and treatment exist across Europe. It will require multipronged collaboration to accelerate progress. In addition to R&D into treatments, we need global action and initiatives at local, regional, and national levels, including national dementia strategies and sharing of best practice to care today and cure tomorrow.
As we head into 2018, we will continue to work with the wider health community to address the challenge posed by Alzheimer’s. At the end of the day, only through a holistic approach from all actors can we succeed in improving patient outcomes.