Quintiles' Dennis Gillings Speaks Out on Dementia

Jun 19, 2014

Progress on new research and treatments for dementia has been "achingly slow," noted Dennis Gillings, PhD, Executive Chairman of Quintiles, who was appointed the first world dementia envoy in February 2014.

According to an article posted today on the BBC News web site, Gillings said a pledge by G8 countries to develop a cure or treatment by 2025 was "impossible" without better incentives for investment. He also called for faster and cheaper clinical trials for promising new therapies.

"Just as the world came together in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we need to free up regulation so that we can test ground-breaking new drugs,” he told BBC News. "The amount of scrutiny by regulators is considerable, but there probably needs to be a special case made for dementia by regulators so they can help move things through more quickly.”

Simplify the clinical trials process or simplify the sort of data being demanded, urged Gillings, adding that a major barrier to research was the "ratio of risk to reward" facing pharmaceutical companies investing in dementia. Only three out of 104 dementia drugs assessed in clinical trials since 1998 have received regulatory approval, and globally, research and development losses in dementia since then have reached around $50bn (£29bn).

A key reason for the lack of movement in this area, along with limited funding, is simply that research is extremely difficult, explained Tim Parry from Alzheimer's Research UK. "The brain is our most inaccessible organ," he said. "We're looking to find the fault in the world's biggest supercomputer (our brains) but we're doing it in the dark. It's an absolutely massive challenge."

John Gallacher, PhD, program lead for healthy ageing at the Institute of Primary Care & Public Health from Cardiff University, UK, said neurodegeneration could be linked with changes in parts of the body seemingly unrelated to the brain. He said it was imperative to look at the different stages of developing the disease."By looking at the links between development of the disease and other factors—such as diet or illness—we hope to unearth targets for new drugs or new uses for existing drugs," he noted.

To read the full article, click here.